The city of Sandy poorly handled a public conversation last week regarding a proposal to pull a significant portion of its business from Clackamas County Bank and to potentially establish a new relationship with a large national bank.
The conversation, held during the public City Council meeting — which is recorded and broadcast via the internet — was at best premature, at worst misleading and potentially damaging to the bank's reputation.
To even the most casual observer, the conversation came off as a blind-side insult to an organization that's been a stalwart sponsor of city events for years, and a thoroughly capable provider of financial services.
For context, city staff portrayed the bank as lacking in its ability to serve a municipal government.
But Clackamas County Bank officials say they are equipped with modern technology and are fully staffed by financial experts capable of providing whatever service is needed by the city government. Clearly, more conversations should have taken place behind the scenes before this topic arrived at a meeting of the City Council.
For one, it was in poor taste to raise this conversation in a public setting without giving Clackamas County Bank officials advance warning. Had the bank known this would be a topic of public conversation, bank officials would have attended the meeting and provided a balance to what was being said about their capabilities. Because the bank learned about this conversation only after reading the Sandy Post's news coverage of the council meeting, and then watching the meeting online, it was forced into an unenviable position of damage control.
Secondly, more conversation was needed between the city and the bank before this conversation reached the City Council. What does the city want of the bank? How can Clackamas County Bank meet that need? Where are they divided? Can the bank adapt to meet the need?
Thirdly, the city ignored a cornerstone of small town life — the importance of loyalty to local residents and businesses, particularly those that have been longtime friends, supporters and business allies. The bank and city have been associated in financial matters for decades, but their relationship goes much deeper. The bank has been a long-standing sponsor of city events, such as the town's annual Fourth of July Fireworks display, the city's Kids Parade during the Sandy Mountain Festival, and the Sandy Summer Sounds & Starlight Cinemas.
CCB has proven its commitment to this community over-and-over by sponsoring the Sandy Mountain Festival Parade, Kiwanis Club of Sandy, Sandy FFA, Sandy Fire District, Mt. Hood Hospice, Relay for Life, Sandy River Trail cleanup, Trick-or-Treat Trail, Sandy Historical Society, Sandy Chamber of Commerce and various civic clubs and organizations, sports clubs and school clubs.
We applaud the mayor and City Council for having the wisdom to suspend this discussion without taking action. But, by the time this topic was tabled, the damage had been done.
The city government now faces the task of rebuilding trust with the bank that had been its important business and civic ally for years. And it put the bank in an awkward position of defending itself against inaccurate portrayals.
In the aftermath of last week's City Council meeting, we understand that city staff has entered into conversations with bank officials. The outcome of those conversations is by no means certain. But to say the least, this is what should have happened in the first place.