A Pacific antique merchant, who was described in an email message as a junk dealer, with the plea that he should not be allowed to stay in business on the main street, said the Pacific Chamber of Commerce dropped the ball in dealing with the incident.
Larry Mueller, who owns Green Store Antiques and Collectibles, 116 W. St. Louis St., said he was promised a pubic apology after Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Fran Kopsky raised questions about Mueller’s business.
Kopsky sent an email message to Kim Barfield, city clerk, chastising the city for allowing what appeared to be a nonconforming sign on a downtown business.
“Why are we allowing businesses like this antique/junk store to get away with running a business like this in our town?” the message asked.
Barfield forwarded the email message to City Administrator Harold Selby, city code enforcement officials and some aldermen. The email was then circulated in the community, including being sent to The Missourian, causing a flurry of phone calls among local businesses.
Chamber directors suspended Kopsky for one week with pay but made no public statement apologizing for the comments in the email message.
Mueller is incensed at what he considers giving Kopsky a paid vacation, saying he was angry at directors’ claims that what the executive director said did not represent the Chamber of Commerce opinion.
“She speaks for the Chamber of Commerce,” Mueller said. “She’s their paid spokesperson.”
Patrick Pharr, Chamber vice president, said Chamber directors had directed Kopsky to send a written apology to Mueller.
Pharr also said no other members of the Chamber had complained to directors about the incident.
“We have dealt with the situation,” Pharr said. “We directed her to write a letter apologizing to Mr. Mueller, which she did.”
But Mueller said a letter would not be circulated like the email which reached a number of people, who then talked about it to acquaintances.
“A letter telling me they’re sorry is not the same as telling all the people who saw the e-mail they’re sorry they insulted my business,” he said.
Mueller said his reputation was harmed when the email was circulated around town. He also said learning that Kopsky was suspended for one week with pay was more insulting than helpful.
“They just want to sweep this thing under the rug,” Mueller said. “They never meant to apologize.”
Other Chamber directors, who asked not to be identified, said they were sorry that the email had been sent and wished they could do something to make amends with Mueller. But the board as a whole is not willing to make a public apology.
One director said continued conversation about the incident, even an apology, might just add fuel to the fire.
Another director said the board had backed off after Mueller made comments about seeing an attorney.
“I might have made a comment, sitting here in my store, that an attorney would probably consider what she said to be slander, and they probably would,” Mueller said. “But no way did I threaten to sue the Chamber of Commerce. I haven’t seen an attorney and I’m not planning to see an attorney.
“This is just piling on, they’re waiting for me to make one mistake then they blame the whole thing on me,” he said. “I consider this a slur on my business and on my character.”
After the Chamber directors had their meeting to discuss the emails, Mueller said he expected the president of the Chamber to come and tell him in person what happened.
“That didn’t happen,” he said. “Someone who said they were from the Chamber of Commerce called and told me that she had been suspended for a week.”
“It is absolutely wrong for the Chamber of Commerce, an organization that’s supposed to be working for businesses, to do something like this and then try to keep it all behind the scenes,” Mueller said. “I want the other businesses to know that this happened.”