Council criticism leads to public comments moved, foul language

Sequim-area resident called name on hot mic

EDITOR’S NOTE: Language may be offensive to readers.

SEQUIM — A hot mic moment on Sequim City Council member Mike Pence’s Zoom station caught some foul language toward a Sequim-area resident at the end of a council meeting that began with Mayor William Armacost taking issue with residents who have criticized him and Pence.

Six seconds after adjournment of the virtual meeting on Monday, a woman’s voice could be heard from Council member Mike Pence’s video screen.

Off screen, she said: “That Karen Hogan, everybody knows what a c––– she is, and she has to be the first …”

Pence replied to the woman, “First words out of her mouth,” and the woman said, “every week …” before the meeting recording ended.

Pence was the only one on camera at the 3:08:30 mark; all other council members had exited the meeting.

City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said via email on Wednesday that staff was placing a “truncated” version on the city’s website, removing the portion of the video recorded after the meeting adjourned.

Pence could not be reached for comment.

Hogan said in a phone interview that the overheard comment was “really offensive.”

“What a thing to say; because I participate and make comments?” she asked.

Later she issued a statement saying that it was past time for an apology and renewed her call for Pence’s resignation — along with that of Armacost.

At the beginning of the meeting, Armacost had issued a statement after council members agreed in a 4-3 vote to move public comments from the beginning of the meeting to the end.

QAnon issue

“For the past months, despite my denials, a few members of the public have falsely claimed that I support what is known as QAnon,” Armacost said.

In August, Armacost had spoken highly of QAnon and encouraged Coffee with the Mayor listeners to watch a video that outlined QAnon theories alleging that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring.

The video ended with promoting Donald Trump, who was then seeking a second term as president.

Since then, Armacost has denied that he supports QAnon and has said that the ‘Punisher” pin he has worn to council meetings is in support of law enforcement.

“Recently,” Armacost said Monday, “many of those same individuals have falsely claimed that Councilor Pence made misrepresentations on his application to become a member of this City Council.

“They are so rabid as to characterize his statements as lies.”

Application questioned

Armacost said Pence’s “application was accurate although somewhat confusing in describing the evolution of the Department of Public Works during his years of employment with the City of Liberty, Missouri.”

He made the motion to move public comments to the end of the meeting because he anticipated “more of these venomous comments” that “detract from the business portion” of the meeting.

Fellow council members Sarah Kincaid, Keith Larkin and Pence voted for the motion.

Hogan and Marsha Maguire initially had called for Pence’s resignation in late March after finding job title discrepancies on his council résumé while working for the City of Liberty, Mo.

Pence wrote he was director of Public Works for the city from October 1988 to October 2009.

City staff there said he never held that title.

Records obtained through Liberty’s Deputy City Clerk Janet Pittman show that Pence held titles as Director of Utilities and Maintenance from 1988-1994, Maintenance Superintendent from January 1994-November 1994, and Crew Leader/Maintenance Supervisor from November 1994-December 2009 when he retired.

Previously, Steven Hansen, a former Liberty employee, said he was its public works director from 1994 to June 2016 and that Pence had “misrepresented himself” when he claimed he was public works director on his résumé.

He said they were co-department heads before Hansen became Public Works director in 1994 when the department was created. Hansen was Pence’s supervisor where he was maintenance supervisor, he said.

In a previous interview, Pence said he did not intend to mislead people.

He confirmed his original title as “director of utilities and maintenance,” “which is public works.”

When the Public Works Department was created in 1994, Pence said he became the maintenance superintendent and no longer oversaw water and sewer operations.

In that interview, Pence said his résumé was a summation of his highest qualifications over his career.

“Maybe I should have made (the application) clearer,” he said.

He also took offense to being called a liar and felt he wouldn’t have had a long career in municipal government if he was one.

Pence previously said he felt targeted by Hogan, Maguire and others and that he’d seek advice from a lawyer because he feels they are bullying and defaming his character.

Hogan previously said they weren’t targeting him but “uncovering something that’s not true.”

The City of Sequim’s administrative staff said Pence didn’t violate city council rules by having a discrepancy in his résumé.

In the public comment portion of the meeting — at the end of the meeting — Hogan was one of three to speak.

She said that moving the comments “did a real serious blow to freedom of speech.”

She also expressed concern about Pence’s trustworthiness.

“Do any (council members) find it disturbing that Mr. Pence falsified information on his resume? How can he and they be trusted to vet a candidate if they have no problem with someone falsifying information on a résumé? Or being confused about what their job title was?” she said.

In a phone interview, Hogan said the actions to move the public comments and the meeting’s foul language suppresses free speech and encourages intimidation.

“It shows an attitude that can be intimidating to keep people participating in their civic duties,” she said.

“Why did Pence feel like he need to misrepresent his career? Why did he have to lie?

“It’s a lie. He was not a public works director for 21 years,” she said.

In a later statement, Hogan said: “Mr. Armacost’s April 12th opening statement and motion to move Public Comments to the end of the evening because he anticipated concerned citizens would comment on the matter of Mr. Pence’s falsified résumé were antithetical to transparent government where public servants must be accountable to the people.

“Mr. Pence’s and Mr. Armacost’s bullying and mendacious behavior flies in the face of the words they recite in the Pledge of Allegiance, ‘indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,’ she said.

“It is time they both resign. Their behavior is polarizing and sets a bad example to the youth of our community. Moreover, it creates chaos, interferes with efficient city operations and sound fiscal management, and damages the reputation of Sequim.”

The next virtual Sequim city council meeting will be at 6 p.m. April 26 with more information at www. sequim bwa.gov.

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