Community members are calling for the resignation of a PenMet Parks Board member after the release of records showing she does not have the college degree she stated she had when she applied to the board nearly two years ago.
Amanda Babich, who was appointed to the board after another member moved out of the district, said on her application to PenMet Parks in January 2016 that she received a bachelor’s degree in recreation management from Central Washington University.
In addition, Babich, who is running for re-election against Kirsten Gregory in the Nov. 7 primary election for a six-year term on the board, states in the 2017 General Election Voters’ Guide that she has the degree.
However, a DegreeVerify Certificate, dated Sept. 18 and obtained by The Peninsula Gateway through National Student Clearinghouse, shows Babich attended CWU from 2000 to 2003, but did not complete her degree.
Asked by The Gateway to explain the incorrect information concerning her college degree, Babich said it was the first time in her career that the issue had come up.
“This has never come up — ever,” she said in an Oct. 2 interview. “I’m absolutely going to look into the situation. I haven’t done anything to mislead anyone. I’m baffled by the situation.”
A phone call and email by The Gateway to contact Babich on Monday evening for an update on the degree situation went unanswered, but she posted on her campaign Facebook page on Saturday morning that “I completed my studies in Winter Quarter 2003 with 197.5 credits, more than required to graduate. As a student I worked closely with CWU and their advisors to ensure that I completed the required coursework. I am communicating directly with CWU to obtain a copy of my degree.”
After a community member alerted PenMet Parks officials of the discrepancy surrounding Babich’s bachelor’s degree, they found discrepancies in what she detailed about her previous work history in recreation at the Si View Metropolitan Parks District.
In her PenMet application, the 37-year-old stay-at-home mom said she was a recreation manager with Si View.
She states she was “responsible for writing and maintaining an annual budget, grant proposals, RFPs (request for proposal), RFQs (request for quotation), capital improvement plans, comprehensive plans, hosting town halls and community information meetings, etc.”
Her voters’ guide profile says she was a marketing and program coordinator with the parks district.
After contacting Si View to gather more information about Babich’s credentials, PenMet Parks officials said “information they gave us was inconsistent” with what Babich had written on her application, said Terry Lee, PenMet Parks executive director.
“They led us to believe that she did not have a management position,” Lee said.
An email acquired by The Gateway from Scott Loos, finance HR manager for Si View, states Babich — then known by her maiden name Amanda Stanton — was employed by the district as a recreation coordinator from 2004-07.
Babich told The Gateway there was no embellishment or overstatement of her previous job experience listed in the PenMet Parks application.
After previously being managed by King County, the Si View Metropolitan Parks District was established after voters passed a ballot initiative in 2003, shortly before Babich was officially hired.
She said she was among the group of employees who helped build the district in its early days.
“We were a grass-roots organization,” Batich said. “It was an all-hands-on-deck situation.”
We were a grass-roots organization. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation.
Amanda Babich, candidate for PenMet Parks board
She said she isn’t concerned about the discrepancies in her duties within her application or the voters’ guide.
“It’s not a concern because I know the (recreation-related) work that I’ve done,” Babich said. “I don’t want to misrepresent myself in any way. I want what is best for this community.”
PenMet Parks officials confronted Babich about the misrepresentation of her college degree early last month after the public records request was submitted.
Board President Kurt Grimmer said Thursday the board is working quickly to resolve the issue.
“It’s more complicated than it looks on the surface,” he said.
It is not standard procedure to check applicants’ professional background when they apply to a position on the PenMet Parks board and no background or reference check was done when Babich’s application was submitted, Lee said.
“We were not asked to verify her background at the time,” said Lee, who added that he would have directed staff to do so had the board asked.
Randy Boss, who along with Babich was one of three candidates vying for the vacant seat early last year, asked the PenMet Parks board at its Oct. 9 meeting why it had not acted even though it had knowledge of Babich’s misrepresentation for more than 30 days.
“(Babich) knows she doesn’t have a degree and she needs to fess up to this,” Boss said in a phone interview Thursday.
He said the board needs to either make a public announcement that Babich has been fired or she needs to make a public announcement acknowledging she made a mistake.
“They need to take Amanda and put her on administrative leave,” Boss said. “(The board has) known about this and they are not taking any action. Their whole point is to let this die out (through the election process).”
Boss isn’t the only community member publicly asking for a resolution.
The Greater Gig Harbor Foundation, also known as PenMet Foundation, has “encourage(d) the board to seek a resolution that will assure the district’s honor remains intact, thereby enabling it to continue its good work,” said Julie Ann Gustanski, a founding member and CEO of the foundation.
Through its supporters, the foundation, formed in 2006 to support the work of the PenMet Parks, has provided more than $1.6 million in project-specific funds and services to PenMet Parks, Gustanski said.
“In committing resources, services, time and funds, our community places trust in the foundation’s integrity, and by extension in our partners,” Gustanski said.
Gregory, Babich’s opponent in the election, said she’s disappointed that the controversy takes away from a straightforward race that should be based on each candidate’s background.
“Candidates should be evaluated on accurate information,” she said. “Voters assume that the information in the voters’ guide is accurate.”
As of Tuesday morning, the PenMet Parks board had yet to decide what do about the situation involving Babich.
“We’re aware of the (community) pressure (to respond) and the (election) timeline,” Grimmer said.