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Controversy shrouds Pacific's newly elected mayor
As an improbable winner of a close and heated election in November, Cy Sun knows he faces an even tougher battle as Pacific's new mayor in the many weeks ahead.
He admits there is no honeymoon.
And now there is a growing controversy.
The 81-year-old Sun is a Korean and Vietnam war veteran whose campaign literature says he earned a Purple Heart – a distinguished service medal – and a rare Croix de Guerre, a French medal awarded to only a few Americans.
But several citizens, notably City Councilmember Gary Hulsey, are suspicious of the man's heroic military record, and want the newly elected mayor to prove it.
"I'm not out for blood, I'm out for the truth," said Hulsey, a Marine Corps veteran who served three tours of duty during the Vietnam War. "I have asked him to present his record, Army orders or citations. I would love to see him have these awards, and we can clear this up ... but there are too many phonies out there who claim to be veterans."
Sun earned a Silver Star – the third-highest combat military decoration that can be awarded to a U.S. soldier – while serving in the Korean War, according to research by Doug Sterner, a curator for the Military Times Hall of Valor in Alexandria, Va.
The U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division – Sun's outfit – doesn't list anyone with his name as a Silver Star recipient, Sterner pointed out, although he is listed by the Korean War Veterans Association.
Sterner's database also shows a "Hebert Cy Sun" was awarded two Purple Hearts in Korea. Sun was wounded in action – Feb. 1, 1951, and Sept. 18, 1951, while he was with the Army's 23rd Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division.
But Hulsey, a state commander for two major veterans organizations, says the new mayor might have violated the Stolen Valor Act, a law that makes it a federal misdemeanor offense to falsely represent oneself as having received any U.S. military decoration or medal.
Hulsey demanded that Sun present official and certified records to him on Wednesday. Sun, he said, did not show up, and Hulsey is now calling for a federal investigation.
In an email Thursday, Sun told the Auburn Reporter that he is holding off any response to the situation. He also acknowledges there are factions opposing him as he begins his work in office.
Hulsey wants to resolve the matter before Sun and the City Council go to work. The council assembles Monday for its regular meeting, and Hulsey hopes Sun will come with the requested documentation.
"If he can provide the proof, then I will publicly apologize to the man," Hulsey said. "If he can't, then there's the next step. ... If he doesn't have the awards, I want him to publicly apologize. When someone claims to have those awards and does not have them, it cheapens the awards for those who do have them.
"I don't want to send the man to jail," Hulsey added. "Jail is no place for an old man."
Based on Hulsey's research, Sun is not listed among those who received those medals for valor. He also points out that the Croix de Guerre has not been awarded since Americans last fought on French soil in World War II. Sun was too young to be involved in that war, Hulsey said.
Howard Erickson, a three-term Pacific mayor and Sun supporter, told KIRO-7 TV on Wednesday that many of Sun's military records are in boxes, not readily available on the Internet.
Erickson believes Sun.
"Cy is not a common man," he told the Reporter in an earlier interview, "he's an extraordinary man."
Hulsey acknowledges that Sun is a war veteran, based on records. Sun has explained that his scars throughout his body, including one to his head, are a result of his combat duty.
Sun was officially sworn in as mayor last Thursday at City Hall. But if the ceremony was any indication, Sun must win over the people and unite a City Council as well. Only two representatives – Leanne Guier and Tren Walker – of the city's seven-member council appeared at the small public gathering.
"I'm very disappointed. I can see it's an uphill battle right now," Sun said after taking the oath of office from Jane Montgomery, City clerk and personnel manager. It is Sun's first attempt at public office.
"My first task is to get the overwhelming support of the people," he added. "Once I can get that, I think I can work with the council."
Some councilmembers, including Hulsey and Joshua Putnam, were unable to attend because of family events.
"I suspect that's true for most of the councilmembers who weren't there – not any sort of division between the mayor and council, just a very busy time of year," Putnam explained.
"I'm looking forward to working with the mayor as we get up to speed on 2012," he added. "There's a fairly steep learning curve with the number and complexity of issues the City deals with, and I'd be happy to do whatever I can to ease that transition and help the mayor hit the ground running."
Sun, a political outsider and long shot write-in candidate, upset two-term incumbent Richard Hildreth by 70 votes in the Nov. 8 general election. He officially assumed duties Tuesday.
Sun vows to clean up what he claims to be corruption at City Hall, eliminate financial waste while reinstating and promoting Abraham Lincoln's doctrine: "Government of the people, by the people, for the people."
Sun contends the council has not been forthright in its work with the people in the last eight years.
"From what I understand and what to know, the council has never been brought up with the true picture of any situation," he said.
He promises to bring a congenial, casual approach to office.
"While in office, my time will be voluntary," he told the audience last week. "I will ask the council to lower my salary to $15 a week. I'm not here for any financial gain. I'm here to serve the people. I need your support."
Sun is eager to tackle everyday issues. His door will be open.
"Come with your problems and we will look at them," he told the assembly. "We will listen to you. We will try our best."
Sun says he grew up in Hawaii. He raised a family and crops on his Oregon farm before settling in Pacific with his wife.
He understands he has much to learn in serving a community of 6,000 strong.
"Not really excited, I think I'm more reserved," he said of his challenges. "I feel we have a lot of lot of work ahead of us.
"I'm worried about how it will come out," he continued. "I'm thinking of ways to overcome the problems and work with the council."
Hildreth supporters and skeptics suggest Sun is not qualified to serve as mayor.
Supporters of the former-mayor claim Sun benefitted greatly from a smear campaign – anybodybutrich.com – designed to oust the current mayor. Jerry Eck, a local businessman, financially backed the movement.
At the center of the campaign was Hildreth's alleged misuse of a City-issued credit card for personal use and to advance a career in emergency management.
An outside investigation cleared Hildreth of charges in credit-card-gate.
Hildreth says voters have made a mistake in putting a poorly-prepared man in office.
"Although I am disappointed in losing to negative campaigning and the deception of our citizens, I know that as the truth comes out, the public will see the mistake that was made," Hildreth said in a statement. "I pray that mistake does not prove to be fatal to our city."
Sun understands his doubters but wants to be given a chance.
"It's going to be a rough road. I will do the best I can."