This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
The clock is ticking on Randy Dorn’s redemption.
The state schools chief has said precious little since being arrested early Sunday on suspicion of drunken driving. Dorn, elected superintendent of public instruction in 2008, allegedly blew a 0.11 on a breathalyzer after being pulled over in Orting for speeding.
His only statement, issued Tuesday after the news broke, was a contradiction of itself.
Yes, the public has a right to information about the conduct of elected officials, Dorn said. In the next breath, he begged the public’s understanding and respect while he deals with this “personal legal matter.”
That mantra is catching on: A spokesman for Dorn’s office said on Wednesday that Dorn would have no additional statement, adding that the arrest was a “personal legal matter.”
What Dorn will learn shortly, if he hasn’t already, is that “personal legal matter” is an oxymoron when an elected official is charged with committing a crime – especially when that elected official is also charged with the welfare of the state’s schoolchildren.
Dorn’s case is made murkier by the City of Orting’s grudging release of information. Before the city prosecutor filed charges on Wednesday, city officials wouldn’t even say what Dorn’s blood-alcohol content was.
The city continues to withhold the police report due to a mistaken reading of public records law. Orting is giving Dorn and his attorney until 4 p.m. on Friday to challenge the report’s release in court.
State law allows agencies to give notice to people affected by a records release – but the attorney general’s office recommends notice only be given if there is “a reasonable belief that the record is arguably exempt.”
Orting lawyers have not identified any public records exemptions that would apply to information in the report – because none exists.
But forget Orting for a moment. Dorn has the power to make the police report public simply by declining the city’s offer. As of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, he had yet to do so.
A number of Washington politicians have found themselves in the same spot as Dorn. The ones who emerged least scathed were immediately forthcoming and apologetic. Doing penance also hasn’t hurt.
Dorn should start talking. His silence will likely cost him more than just about any confession.