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Rec district mud slinging causing tensions

Resident: Board members should make decisions for constituents
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Four people are running for two seats on the Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District, but one member who isn’t running is stirring the pot and making what one director calls personal attacks. Directors Scott Holbrook and Curt Smith are currently running for re-election to the board. Newcomers Chris Asbury and Larry Tracy are also vying for the seats. Director Gordon Ainsleigh has sent several mass e-mails to and had letters to the editor published in the Journal in which he actively campaigned against Holbrook and Smith. Ainsleigh’s seat on the board is not currently up for election. In an e-mail letter to local athletic trainer and author Brad Kearns that was also sent to the Journal, Ainsleigh made comments about Smith and Holbrook’s personal health. “The pattern I see here is that both Smith and Holbrook have destroyed their health through gluttony and sloth to the point that they can’t hike an unpaved path that has any significant gradients,” Ainsleigh wrote. “And if they don’t want to or can’t use it, Smith and Holbrook don’t want it in ‘their’ parks and will oppose it in favor of something they can use.” Smith said he does take the comments personally, but he doesn’t want to get involved in mud slinging. “Yes, I think it’s a personal attack,” Smith said. “Beyond that I pretty much want to let people judge for themselves. I don’t really want to get in a tit for tat situation. I feel like my record stands on its own and people can judge that how they see it.” Holbrook said he does feel Ainsleigh’s comments have had an impact. “I think Mr. Ainsleigh’s comments speak for themselves, including those mentioned in your question,” Holbrook said in an e-mail. “I do know that they have upset many in the community, including staff at ARD. I respect Mr. Ainsleigh’s position. I listen to all my peers on the board prior to making decisions, including Mr. Ainsleigh’s. Every day the ARD staff comes to work to provide the best they can for the community. I think comments made that reflect negatively on the district do not please them.” Larry Tracy, who is a candidate for the board in the November election, said he has seen Holbrook and Ainsleigh make unprofessional comments to each other at board meetings. “I don’t think Gordon should be making personal comments about fellow board members,” Tracy said. “I don’t really know the history of this, but the cheap shots need to stop.” Tracy said he has spoken to local government representatives who mentioned the unprofessional actions of ARD board members. “I know the local governments don’t think highly of the ARD board at the moment, and probably because of this,” he said. “It’s destructive and I guess it’s been going on for a fairly long period of time. But I think there is fault all around.” In another recent e-mail to the Journal, Ainsleigh stated that he recruited board member Jim Ferris and managed his campaign. Ferris said he does not agree with Ainsleigh’s statement. “I would say that ‘managed my campaign’ would be quite an exaggeration,” Ferris said. “He endorsed my candidacy. He did his best to persuade people I would be a good candidate because he felt I agreed with him on issues pertaining to the importance of health. As soon as I was elected and didn’t agree with him on certain issues that came before the board, he accused me of betraying him.” Ferris said Ainsleigh does not understand really understand other board members’ goals. “His current attack on the board of directors is similar in that he misrepresents their reasons,” Ferris said. “He thinks he knows what their motivations are, which is, as far as I’m concerned, a fiction.” Ferris said Ainsleigh often starts disagreements between himself and other board members. “When people disagree with Gordy, he tends to belittle them, which tends to provoke them,” Ferris said. In an e-mail dated Sept. 27, Ainsleigh said he was instrumental in getting Smith elected in the past, and stood behind Smith because he seemed to support Ainsleigh’s ideas. “When he announced that he was running for the board I figured, ‘Hey, what the heck,’” Ainsleigh wrote in the e-mail. “‘If he supports what I support, I’ll support him.’ We talked about my trails and health programs, and he said he supported me on those. So, I got together with Jerry Kopp, (owner of Uptown Signs on High Street), and we designed a 4x8 sign for Curt. I had (Kopp) put on the sign, ‘Clearly the best person for the job –Gordy Ainsleigh.’ And I got permission from a famous woman runner to use a picture of her doing standing yoga to put on Curt’s sign. I think we had about eight done, and I paid for about a third of the signs and put up most of them. Even so it was close; Curt got elected by two percentage points. So, yeah, I think it’s fair to say I got him elected.” Ainsleigh said Smith is now going back on his promise to support trails in the district. “Since taking office, Curt has opposed every pro-health proposal I have put forth, and opposed the Ashford, Shockley and Rock Creek trail plans I have advocated,” Ainsleigh said. ARD is currently constructing an asphalt path around Recreation Park. A trail is also going in on the property behind Chana High School and at Regional Park, according to Holbrook. Smith said while he does support trail projects, the district can’t spend all of its money on one thing. “I do support trails, and I do support health,” Smith said. “I don’t support anything to the exclusion of everything else.” ARD offers a myriad of classes to the community, from dancing to recreational softball to cooking. Asbury said he thinks Holbrook and Ainsleigh seem to disagree on a lot of topics. “From my observation at the monthly board meeting, this is common for them,” Asbury said. “They are very passionate individuals. At times they are more adversarial than they are coworkers.” Asbury said he does not agree with they way Ainsleigh has made his comments. “I’m not necessarily agreeing with the delivery method,” he said. “I think (Ainsleigh) could have probably conveyed the message a little differently.” Kahl Muscott, ARD district administrator, gave the Journal a statement Tuesday. “ARD staff has been maintaining a level of objectivity during the last few weeks,” Muscott said. “We work as a professional team and will continue to do so, providing wonderful parks and exciting programs for our residents.” Auburn resident Ed Campbell, who was visiting Recreation Park Tuesday, said he thinks board members shouldn’t expect anything from other board members. “I don’t think there should be anything owed to anyone after they are elected,” Campbell said. That is a problem with a lot of government right now.” Auburn resident Tracy Shanahan, whose son Jack, 4, was playing soccer in the Mighty Mites program at Recreation Park Tuesday, said even if Ainsleigh helped get other board members elected, he can’t expect them to be “dutiful” to him. “Those are positions that need to listen to the community,” Shanahan said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com