To our friends, our family and our community,
In the fall of 2017, I stepped on to the Sunset Empire Park and Rec board of directors. A few months earlier I had been approached by its executive director, Skyler Archibald, to apply for a board opening. I applied and was interviewed but at the time was not chosen. After that I looked more deeply into everything that Park and Rec does and believed that I could help make it better for our kids and our community. When executive director Archibald a few months later encouraged me to run in the election I did and won. From that point forward I have given my best to help ensure a vibrant but sustainable district.
At the heart of this matter is a simple event, it goes beyond personality or project. An agreement was created starting in September of 2019 for the creation and installation of the batting cage facility. This was led by our executive director in company with many local community leaders.
At November’s City Council meeting it was presented as a joint project between SEPRD and Seaside Kids. Through the next seven months an extensive amount of work was put into this by both the executive director and our local community partners to move this project along. Each month they regularly met with Seaside Kids and Seaside’s City Council and in March they ratified this with an intergovernmental agreement to proceed with the build. Ground was broken for the project quickly after that. At the SEPRD June board meeting as we were reviewing our budget, director John Chapman noticed some budget irregularities. As we asked questions about this, our executive director told us of this binding contract he’d signed in March for the first time.
This caused quite a bit of confusion and concern. As we asked to explore this we came to realize more and more what was involved and that somehow we had entered into a contract that none of the board had any knowledge of.
Beyond that we were learning that it was a 10-year obligation that we had yet to vote on, I became concerned with the legality of a project that was already under full construction. Worried that SEPRD was involved in something we could be held liable for I asked our executive director for the contact info for our legal team.
The next day I reached out to our legal who directed me to proceed into an executive special session on the performance, in this instance of our executive director. I did exactly as our legal council directed me, exactly. From our conversations, I was told that the session was a chance for the board to ask questions as to the full timeline and process that got us into this partnership without oversight or knowledge of the project.
Please allow me to say again, this executive session was for nothing more than to review the process of how this came about. It was never meant to be a judgment on the project, which I am encouraged by or a judgment on the character of our executive director. We had asked for a normal executive session so we could review the process, yet it was our executive director’s decision to make it public. I had hoped after our session I would be able to address the very pointed and thorough questions that I was being asked by our partners, City Council, on why they were led to believe we were fully knowledgeable and in full support of the project which may have impacted their votes had they known otherwise.
These were and still are incredibly relevant questions left unanswered. Had the session gone accordingly we would have been able to address these concerns with our partners and hopefully voted to truly ratify the agreement that was already in place. I am still not sure how this turned into a session believed to be a referendum on the continued employment of our executive director.
The last few days have been incredibly hard for all involved, this simple issue with the batting cages has ballooned so far beyond what a simple special session was to accomplish that it has set our community on end. This was the first time I have ever been the chair of a board so deeply ingrained within our community and I recognize that mistakes have been made on all sides. Truthfully what should have been a simple question and answer has turned into a community division that I hope and pray we can quickly overcome. With an open heart and desire to do what’s best for SEPRD, I am hopeful of seeing that healing process start. I would like to take a moment to thank the incredible outpouring of support that Misty and I have received as well, thank you to everyone who has reached out and to those out there who are saying vile things tagged to my children’s pictures I strongly ask you to stop before we need to involve local law enforcement.
Jeremy Mills is the president of the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District Board of Directors.