Letters: Infighting led to PenMar resignations

November 07, 2003|by TARA REILLY

CASCADE - Two former PenMar Development Corp. board of directors members said in their resignation letters that they stepped down from the board in September because of agency infighting and because they questioned the motives of some other board members, including Washington County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and PenMar Executive Director Richard Rook.

The Herald-Mail obtained the resignation letters of former PenMar board members James LaFleur and Terry Randall on Thursday.

PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base, which the Army shut down in 1998.

"The PMDC Board is now dysfunctional," Randall wrote in his Sept. 9 resignation letter to the County Commissioners. "I feel that there is now a 'sub-board' led by the Vice Chairman (Ronald Sulchek) and Commissioner Wivell that is in conflict with past actions and policies, and is seeking to frustrate other Board members into submission."


Randall wrote in the three-page letter that the division of board members began about the time Rook was hired as PenMar's executive director and that it appeared to be about power and personalities.

"I don't have time for petty power struggles with people who have tainted agendas and are not trustworthy with confidential matters and financial matters; I prefer not to dirty myself by association," Randall wrote.

"I am not confident that the motives of some of my fellow Board members are 'pure;' their goals are personal or for the benefit of other organizations, not the successful redevelopment of Ft. Ritchie for the benefit of all of Washington County now and in the future," Randall wrote.

Seven people on the 15-member board have resigned since September, leaving eight PenMar board members - just enough to have a quorum.

Four board members, Chairwoman Paula Lampton, Treasurer Thomas Newcomer, Wayne Alter and former Chairman Brett Wilson, resigned within the past week.

Board member Regis Binder resigned several weeks ago.

"I cannot in good faith and conscience be part of decision-making based on personal agendas rather than good business practices and the law," LaFleur wrote in his Sept. 4 resignation letter.

LaFleur is a former PenMar executive director and former base commander.

"I have serious concerns regarding the manner in which some of the new PMDC board members have been exercising their duties," Alter said Thursday in a phone interview.

Alter declined to elaborate.

On Wednesday, Del. Chris Shank told The Herald-Mail that the PenMar board began having problems after the commissioners made new appointments to the board. The commissioners made the appointments several months ago.

Shank said he would like to speak with the commissioners and other state legislators about state lawmakers possibly having more say in the appointment of PenMar board members.

The commissioners appoint the board.

Sulchek, who is now PenMar's acting chairman, declined to comment on Shank's remarks.

Sulchek said he didn't want to get bogged down in negative issues. He said the remaining board members are focused and ready to move on with their mission to redevelop the 638-acre base.

Rook could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Wivell said Thursday he thought Shank's comments were a cheap shot and that Shank never has called him with concerns or attended PenMar board meetings.

"I think it's an injustice to the new board," Wivell said. "I think it belittles their commitment to the board."

Wivell said he thought the members recently appointed to the PenMar board were "outstanding individuals."

He said he would like Shank to meet with him to discuss his concerns and attend some PenMar meetings.

Wivell declined to comment on the claims by Randall and LaFleur that he played a role in dividing the PenMar board.

"To comment on it would be nothing but sour grapes," Wivell said. "I plan to look forward and move ahead."

The Herald-Mail Articles