Black DIamond council members censured in dispute with mayor

What started as a fight over two large development projects around Black Diamond has morphed into a war of words between the mayor and the majority of the five-member city council.  After weeks of not showing up for meetings, the entire body met Thursday, where the three-person majority was warned not to keep breaking the law..

BLACK DIAMOND, Wash. -- Three Black Diamond city council members were censured at a meeting Thursday, after months of acrimony with the mayor and not showing up for several recent board meetings as required by law.

The censure warned council members Pat Pepper, Brian Weber and Erika Morgan, who were in attendance, to "cease and desist violating the law".

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After an executive session, the three members left and the meeting ended soon afterwards.

Pepper, Weber and Morgan have been engaged in a dispute with Mayor Carol Benson since the beginning of the year, challenging her duties and attempting to change how city government operates.

"Change is difficult," said Pepper before Thursday's council meeting, "It's hard to come to this with things you've always done, and find out there's another way of doing it.

"The things the council would like to work on," continued Pepper, "Aren't on the agenda."

Much of the divide stems from the Oakpointe development, a pair of large projects planned around the city that would add five times the population to the area.

Mayor Benson, who ran with support from the Save Black Diamond group which opposed the project, said little can be done legally to stop the project. At this point, she said, the fight has morphed into something else.

"They're not trying to stop the development," said Benson, "They're trying to stop city business."

By not showing up for meetings, the council frequently does not have enough members to vote on ordinances, grants and other buisness.

"You just can't talk to them" added Benson, "There is no reasoning with them. One of them has to go."