A Battle Ground councilman is threatening to pull his support of the Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce, writing in recent emails that he doesn’t trust the organization and believes it’s overstepped its bounds politically.
Councilman Alex Reinhold wrote in a July 20 email to council members that the chamber had “disrespected” the city council by not formally inviting Mayor Lisa Walters to participate in the Harvest Days parade.
Reinhold wrote that he doesn’t trust Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mike Harden and that the chamber has “a pattern of making mistakes,” such as misspelling the city’s name on posters, even as it tries to strengthen partnerships with the city.
“At this point I am not inclined … to help the chamber in the future until they start treating the city government with the minimal respect I think is due to us,” Reinhold wrote in his email to councilmembers.
Not formally inviting the mayor was an oversight, Harden said, and a poor decision. He said a car was set aside for the mayor but was sent into the parade without her.
He said he explained the situation to Reinhold and apologized to the mayor and was unaware the councilman was still upset with chamber officials. He said Reinhold’s emails were not forwarded to him.
Recent partnerships between the city and the chamber include the chamber’s Passport to Battle Ground Program, which would promote the city as a tourist destination. The program will use city lodging taxes as its seed money.
The chamber also presented a proposal to the city council in April about revitalizing Old Town Battle Ground using the Washington State Main Street Program. At the time, the city council expressed interest in the program.
In an email Thursday, Reinhold said he felt the chamber’s leadership had lied to him.
“What I … need is to not be lied to and work with a group that checks the details,” Reinhold wrote. “I can not and will not trust any taxpayer funds to the chamber as long as this pattern continues.”
The chamber invited Councilman Adrian Cortes, an ad hoc board member, to represent the city at Harvest Days. Cortes called Reinhold’s emails “reckless” and “uninformed.”
“I don’t know why you’d single (the chamber) out when they provide so much value,” Cortes said in a phone interview.
Reinhold did not respond to calls Friday from The Columbian.
In an emailed response to Reinhold, Cortes wrote Monday that the mayor had a permanent place at the parade, so a “royal monarchical invite is less important.”
A similar situation is in place for the Camas Days Grand Parade, organized by the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce, where the mayor is extended an open invitation to participate.
“We don’t do formal invitations here,” Camas Mayor Scott Higgins said.
Reinhold’s complaints about the chamber didn’t stop with the running of Harvest Days. He wrote that the organization had become more active in politics.
He pointed to a campaign sign for Councilman Mike Ciraulo that appeared in front of the chamber’s building and to Harden’s public endorsement of Ciraulo.
The campaign sign, Harden said, was placed by Judy Ost, who owns the chamber’s building. It was removed at the chamber’s request.
Harden said he endorsed Ciraulo independent of his position as the chamber’s board chairman. Ciraulo’s website doesn’t mention Harden’s affiliation with the chamber.