Flemming, Muri clash over study session
Stan Flemming and Dick Muri are both Republicans and Pierce County Council members, they both come from military backgrounds, and they’re both about the same age.
They’re also bitter rivals in the battle for the new 10th Congressional District seat – and that tension occasionally shows up in their jobs on the County Council, which pays them an annual salary of $107,602.
Their latest disagreement centers on a schedule conflict.
The two men had to choose between attending a July 10 council study session or a campaign-related event. Muri opted to go to the lunchtime study session. Flemming skipped it and drove south to “spend a few brief minutes with the Republican Women of Thurston County.”
Flemming used his Facebook campaign page to criticize Muri for his scheduling choice.
“Muri chose to blow-off the constituents of the 10th District once again so he could sit and dine on a bbq (barbecue) chicken luncheon which he felt was more important,” wrote Flemming, who said he was responding to Facebook comments from Muri supporters.
Muri was irked that Flemming criticized him for missing the campaign event.
“That’s a lot of gall. He’s chastising me for doing my job,” he told The News Tribune. Muri has repeatedly stressed the Tuesday study sessions – where the council reviews agenda items for its action meeting later that day – are important and mandatory. He said Flemming shouldn’t have skipped it July 10.
But Flemming said the study sessions are informational and are not required attendance under council rules. He said he also missed a study session July 16 to be interviewed by The Seattle Times on the 10th District race.
(Not to be outdone, Flemming also says Muri missed several meetings during his unsuccessful run for Congress two years ago. Muri flatly denies it.)
So who’s right? Are study sessions mandatory, or not?
Council attorney Susan Long said they are approved meetings of the council. She said the council’s Rules of Procedure in the county code don’t address attendance.
“All of our council meetings are official,” said Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, the chairwoman of the council. “We expect every council member to make an effort to be at every official council meeting.”
McDonald said Flemming’s assistant had sent an email asking for him to be excused from the July 10 study session.
When asked whether a campaign appearance is a justifiable reason for being absent, McDonald said, “You’d have to ask council member Flemming that.”
Flemming, 59, and Muri, 58, have worked together on the council for 11/2 years and say they got along professionally prior to the campaign and that even now their clashes haven’t affected council business.
McDonald and Vice Chairman Rick Talbert, a Tacoma Democrat, agree. But Talbert said the friction between the two is evident.
“It’s noticeable that they’re running against one another,” Talbert said. “That does create an atmosphere where there is visible tension.”