PALMER — At the Palmer City Council meeting March 10, a majority of the council members did acknowledge the “unorthodox request” made by councilman Richard Best.
On Jan. 10 at 12:35 a.m., Best called the Palmer Police to request a squad car be sent to his house and the Peter Gabriel song “In Your Eyes” be played for his wife in reference to the 1989 cult classic movie “Say Anything.” The Frontiersman initially published an article on the ‘unorthodox request’ more than 24 hours before the regularly scheduled meeting of the Palmer city Council on Feb. 25. Best himself did not call in to the council’s meeting on March 10, but for the first time a majority of the members of the council acknowledged the incident.
“We almost all can agree that what Councilman Best did was inappropriate and just saying sorry means a lot,” said Councilwoman Sabrena Combs. “That’s our job as council members is to recognize the concerns of our citizens, regardless of if you agree with them or not.”
After the story broke on Feb. 24 about Best’s call on Jan. 10, a majority of council members did not acknowledge the incident whatsoever. Councilwomen Julie Berberich, Sabrena Combs and Dr. Jill Valerius called for an apology and for a code of ethics to be established for members of the council. Members of the public rose to voice their displeasure during public comment at the meeting on Feb. 25, but Mayor Edna DeVries, Deputy Mayor Combs and Councilmen Best and Steve Carrington did not discuss the topic.
“Choosing to be silent in society makes it look like you’re accepting of a behavior and actually complicit in the actions, and we’ve had a lot of discussions tonight and Integrity has come up and I want us to all kind of think about what does that integrity mean,” said Valerius.
On March 10, four members of the council did acknowledge the Jan. 10 call to PPD made by Best with varying opinions on the matter. DeVries and Best have yet to acknowledge the issue on the record during a council meeting.
During the most recent meeting, three members of the public asked for an acknowledgement by the council. The council met with the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Advisory Board at 6 p.m. prior to their regularly scheduled meeting at 7. While the special meeting ran long, Best did not call in from Juneau where he works as Chief of Staff to Rep. Ben Carpenter (R-Kenai) for either meeting. A motion not to excuse Best’s absence from the special meeting failed on a 3-3 vote. City Clerk Norma Alley read a text message from Best that she said she received prior to the start of the regular meeting stating that he would be unable to attend telephonically.
“As a council member with over a decade of experience, one must ask what was he thinking and is this individual incompetent, negligent or just selfish in their service to this community. The citizens of Palmer want to know what ethics and values this mayor and council stand for,” said David Fuller. “You’ve had more than enough time to be able to make a solution and present that to the people of Palmer so Mayor DeVries, councilwoman Linda Combs, councilman Steve Carrington and councilman Best wherever you are, doing more important things than being here doing your job, we wait for an answer.”
While Carrington and Combs did speak on the call made from Best, neither condemned the actions. Carrington said that he only had a few hours to digest the issue before the Feb. 25 meeting, and since that time he has discussed it with Best.
“I’m not one to kind of jump in and start wailing when I hadn’t even listened to the recording,” said Carrington. “The actions of one council member asking something that, I’ll call it inappropriate, but I don’t consider it worth the tirade that everyone’s been bringing up but that’s just my opinion and it’s only 14 percent of the council.”
Best identified himself as a council member on the call and stated that he would be willing to pay a fine for disturbing the peace in a grand gesture to his wife as he was on his way to Juneau and would not be home for a number of months. The original article was posted more than 25 hours before the start of the meeting of the Palmer Council on Feb. 25. Best shared the post himself within minutes with the acronym “LOL.” Since then, the subject has been discussed on several statewide news outlets.
“A simple mea culpa from Councilman Best would’ve helped the situation, but that did not happen. It was ignored, it was made fun of, it was flippantly made fun of on social media by him and for a lot of people that just doesn’t sit well,” said Berberich.
Linda Combs said that those who oppose Best’s actions had bullied and harassed her, and that she respected the right to an opinion but also wanted to share her own.
“Where did you get your information, it’s coming from different places. It’s not even coming from anything factual. It’s, someone told me, I read it here I read it on social media. How do you know what you’re getting,” said Linda Combs. “I am appalled at the type of communications and the things that have been said to me in the last two weeks because I chose to act with integrity, which was I had no grasp of the actual facts.”
Combs said that she had only two hours of notification. Around the time of the original post on Monday, Fuller emailed the entire council and attached the audio recording of the call ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.
“I did have all the facts..I read my email and I listened to the call,” said Sabrena Combs. “What I said wasn’t out of line because I did have the facts as well as the rest of you.”