The Puyallup Tribe’s name is said to mean “generous and welcoming to all who enter our lands,” but they aren’t living up to that high ideal. Instead, they are the gatekeepers to the land of broken promises.
After 18 years of working closely with the Puyallup Tribe to produce the Puyallup Tribal News and provide media services, it became clear a couple of years ago that it was time to make a change. Our goal was to transition the tribal newspaper back into the hands of the Tribe where it originated, and we hired a tribal member to get things rolling. That plan did not pan out, and the Tribal Council abruptly chose to end its contract with the Tacoma Weekly this past summer.
The Tribe is now left owing the Tacoma Weekly in unpaid advertisements and published legal notices, and for unpaid services – upward of $700,000. The Tribe’s own accounting department calculated that more than $400,000 is owed in unpaid services, and confirmed to the Tribal Council that the Tacoma Weekly had to supplement the Puyallup Tribal News budget out of our pocket. But the Tribal Council ignored their accountants and has tabled it indefinitely it appears.
When Puyallup tribal attorney Robert Hunter, on behalf of the Tribal Council, presented an offer of $72,000 to settle the matter entirely, this was not acceptable. The Tribal Council came back with a new offer of $150,000, which we accepted just to get this matter over with and move on. Now, months later, the Tacoma Weekly has received not one dime.
We feel that it is important to share our story with our readership because the Tribe’s history of slowness in paying its debts – sometimes up to a year on some projects – is hurting our business, thereby posing a threat to the community’s longstanding newspaper. We are a small company and financial hardships imposed by customers who don’t pay their bills directly affects the good people who work at the Tacoma Weekly and their families. We are now forced to bring the Tribe’s delinquency to court.
We have reached out repeatedly to the Tribal Council, its attorneys and accounting department to sit down and work things out face to face and come to a resolution that everyone is happy with, but we consistently receive no response. We’d like to get this business transaction settled so that everyone can move on to bigger and better things, hopefully in way that allows the Tacoma Weekly to continue supporting the Tribe. That is our intention anyway – to keep sharing the Tribe’s events, successes and culture with the broader community as we have done for so many years.
Recently there has been an online hate campaign underway on Facebook to discredit our company and publisher John Weymer, led by disgruntled ex-employees of the Tacoma Weekly with a few tribal members taking part. The smear campaign took a nasty turn last week when we discovered that anonymous hate e-mails full of lies are being sent to our advertisers in order to deter them from doing business with us. This is not only cowardly, but illegal, and also now in the hands of our attorney.
Over his 18 years working with the Tribe, John Weymer entrenched himself with the tribal membership and he continues to take their concerns to heart. They share their stories, their worries, their joys with him, even urging him to start up an independent Tribal News online. The membership loves their paper but always had concerns about the information being filtered by the Tribal Council. We want the tribal members to have the same opportunities as everyone who reads the Tacoma Weekly – to write letters, to voice their opinion, to send us news ideas, to tell us about their children’s achievements… It is as important to the tribal membership that Tacoma Weekly is here as it is to all of the Tacoma community, and we are here for the Puyallup tribal membership as we are for all of Tacoma.
We have a deep and abiding kinship with the Tribe and we look forward to reporting on their future successes. We understand their importance to the South Sound community. However, the Puyallup Tribe is also a multi-million-dollar corporation and for its leadership to take advantage of a local family business is unconscionable. We are not here to condemn the Tribe, but rather to urge its Tribal Council to do the right thing and pay its bills – simple as that.