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Recreation district avoiding board member censure

Director said election attacks were ‘disgusting’
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The recreation district election mudslinging has been put to bed, but re-elected board members said they would never forget the comments. Two seats were up for election on the Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District board Nov. 2. In the months leading up to Election Day, Director Gordon Ainsleigh, whose seat was not up for election, sent many people, including the Journal, several e-mails making derogatory comments about incumbents Curt Smith and Scott Holbrook. The e-mails included offensive comments about Smith and Holbrook’s health, at one point using the words gluttony and sloth. When the election was over and Smith and Holbrook had been re-elected, the recreation district was researching ways to potentially silence Ainsleigh, Holbrook said Tuesday. “I was advised that the district was looking into censure options,” Holbrook said. “Basically, the discussions were there. I don’t think anyone specifically (spearheaded) it. Based on our lawyers and some other input from community leaders … pretty much everyone was united that wasn’t a good idea to do.” District Administrator Kahl Muscott declined to comment on any potential censure. At last week’s board meeting Holbrook, Smith and Director Jim Ferris admonished Ainsleigh during the public comment portion of the evening. Smith said he thought Ainsleigh’s comments worked to make his re-election possible, because the community was outraged by the attacks. “His remarks will remain in my memory for a long time to come and, while I fully intend to conduct myself professionally while engaging in district business, I will not forget Director Ainsleigh’s comments,” Smith said. “Director Ainsleigh’s misguided efforts have once again placed the district in a position of disdain and ridicule. It is unfortunate that one individual can do so much harm to an organization that has spent so much time and effort trying to improve its services and image. It was a sad day when Director Ainsleigh was elected to the board, and hopefully that mistake will be rectified in two years if he chooses to run for re-election.” Holbrook said he read several of Ainsleigh’s comments during his speech, and that he no longer respects Ainsleigh. “Director Ainsleigh, your unwarranted and un-needed attacks are disgusting,” Holbrook said at the meeting. “The chairman of the board contacted you and requested you please stop and behave in a professional manner, yet you continued down your ugly path. You should be ashamed, but you have made it very apparent that you are not. I would normally ask that you apologize, but again you have demonstrated you cannot make a sincere apology. Alas, all I can do is advise at how truly I am disgusted with you and how you have lost any and all respect I may have had of you.” Holbrook said Tuesday although he does not support Ainsleigh being on the board, he plans to continue to listen to his points of view. “I do not feel that Gordon Ainsleigh should be sitting on a public agency board,” Holbrook said. “That being said, I will listen to his input.” Ainsleigh said Tuesday he thought the e-mails he sent to the Auburn Journal editor and publisher were private, and it was not his decision to make them public. “I had no reason to believe the things I was talking about were anything other than that,” he said. “I apologized to Scott for trying to unelect him,” Ainsleigh said. “And the reason is, despite the fact that he opposes just about everything I do … he does a lot of good. And I think I should have taken that into consideration.” Ainsleigh said he is willing to move on and hopes to spearhead another ARD user survey to get a better idea of what people in the community want in their parks. Councilman Keith Nesbitt said he spoke at the recent board meeting and expressed to Ainsleigh that acting professional in a position is just as important as enforcing the will of the people. “I spoke at the meeting, and what I did was I said I wasn’t there to chastise anyone, just to enlighten them,” Nesbitt said Tuesday. “I just talked to him at the meeting and said decorum and protocol is important. The protocol and decorum is how you show respect … back to the people who voted for you.” Ferris said Tuesday he made spontaneous comments at the meeting in response to Holbrook and Smith’s words, but added “my own Ainsleigh characterizations (probably for catharsis) such as egotistical, arrogant, disingenuous, irrational, delusional and, I could have added, pathological.” “The words are not important,” Ferris said in an e-mail Tuesday. “What is important for everyone to remember, in my opinion, is that regardless of what has been said to Gordy, expressing genuine concern about his comments and behavior, he is apparently seemingly immune to criticism. I don’t expect him to change, because I don’t think he is capable of doing so. He sincerely believes he is right and that all critics of his are wrong. Equally relevant for me is the fact that so long as Ainsleigh remains on the ARD board, I will attempt to treat him with patience and compassion, since I literally don’t think he is able to recognize the harm he has done.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com