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The watchdog that didn’t bark

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on May 30, 2010 at 7:38 am with 10 Comments »
June 1, 2010 2:30 pm

Shame on us.

I’ve scoured our past elections endorsements and failed to find any real warning to the voters how big a catastrophe Dale Washam would be as Pierce County auditor.

Most citizens probably pay no attention to our endorsements, which is fine. But some do. If we had shared what we knew about Washam’s obsessiveness and anger problems, it’s possible he might not sneaked in under the radar in a crowded ranked-choice ballot and wound up in charge of a major department of county government.

The fact is, we – like many others – were blindsided by Washam’s election in 2008. He was what’s known as a perennial candidate, a person who runs repeatedly for one office or another without getting elected.

We figured enough voters knew him well enough. We figured he’d go on running and go on losing; no harm, no foul. Our editorial on the auditor’s race simply mentioned that “the field also includes … Dale Washam.”

In our endorsements, we struggle with what to say about candidates who are manifestly unqualified for the offices they seek. Believe it or not, we prefer to err on the side of politeness.

Despite his profound deficiencies as an administrator, Washam appears to be a fundamentally decent man. We pulled our punches. I truly wish we hadn’t.


I got going on “A” words somehow and called Washam the county “auditor” in this. He’s the assessor-treasurer, of course. Apologies to Julie Anderson, who is the real auditor.

Leave a comment Comments → 10
  1. geeterpontiac says:

    I think the TNT did just fine. It was the weird voting method that put him in office. It was a oddity, nothing more, nothing less.

    What I do object to, is your reaction after he was elected. You never gave him a fair chance and attacked him before he even took over. You, the TNT, may well be partially responsible for what is going on down there because you set the tone before he ever stepped in the front door of the place.

    He may be in completely over his head. I don’t know. But, the TNT never gave him a chance from the beginning.

    By the way, did he raise the assessment value on the TNT facility thus raising your taxes? I wonder, is that really true or just a phony story?

  2. lovethemountains says:

    It was not the responsibility of the TNT to “give him a chance.” He had his chance thorough his own actions. As O’Callahan said, he may be a decent man but his action throughout his many attempts to be elected to something should have tipped even the least observant that he was a disaster in the making.

    As I have commented before, Washam may have the capacity to recognize changes in the office of A/T that are to be made but his personality and lack of management skills will forever prevent him from being a good manager of people. Staff of any office will be efficient and productive only when they are under the direction of someone who recognizes the concept of teamwork and has the capacity to focus on the important tasks at hand.

  3. geeterpontiac says:

    “lovethemountains says:
    May 30, 2010 at 10:45 am
    It was not the responsibility of the TNT to “give him a chance.” He had his chance thorough his own actions.”

    Not quite.

    Within a week after the election, even before Washam had taken office, the TNT was all over him big time.

    I agree, actions are important. But, the TNT never even gave Washam a chance to do anything before they dumped on him.

    I would consider that extremely poor.

  4. This guy had plenty of history before he was elected !

    You knew it, you elected him, live with it !

    Washam will cost the taxpayers millions in lawsuits before he can be replaced !

  5. I had to laugh when Washam was elected. I was afraid people had seen his name so many times they would feel they knew him. What a disaster

  6. Patrick O'Callahan says:

    geeterpontiac, the “attack” you’re talking about consisted of urging that he find a competent, professional deputy and let him run the office. Had he done that, he wouldn’t be in the trouble he’s in.

    Washam had no administrative experience that I was able to identify (when I asked him about it, he more or less hung up the phone). He has not returned emails. He has poor people skills, a tendency to explode and has always exhibited obsessiveness.

    We didn’t tell the public that because we thought it would have been dumping on a public-spirited man (you’ve got to give him that) who was never going to get elected. But the train wreck occurred, and we won’t be silent about it now that he’s a public official and the office is in disarray. He could still turn things around if he could admit his shortcomings and act accordingly.

    About the TNT’s property assessment, I have no idea what’s gone on with our taxes and it has nothing to do with my comments. If they’ve gone up, I assume there’s a good reason, because the people working doing the actual work at the assessor’s office seem pretty professional.

  7. tubbythetuba says:

    TNT has dumped on Dale from the very beginning….I’ll vote for him again.

  8. geeterpontiac says:

    Patrick, if you will go back and look at the TNT commentary in the week or two immediately following the election of Washam, I believe you will find more than just an urging of Washam to find someone competent to run the office.

    The reason I say that is I was simply struck by how strident the TNT was in bashing Washam immediately after the election. I commented on it several times in fact.

    I know really nothing about his competency. I was simply pointing out, that you folks never gave him a chance irrespective of whether he was well or poorly qualified.

    And, I asked about the assesment because other people on these forums in the past has said such was the case. I just wondered if it were true. The contention was, the TNT was going after Washam in part because he was costing the TNT additional tax cost.

  9. tubbythetuba says:

    Anyone this paper dislikes can’t be all bad.

  10. gowenray says:

    You know Mr. O’Callahan, I admire your going on the record to give background information in this manner. It’s one of the reasons I respect the print media over their less-thoughtful news competition in the view and sound media.
    Your use of the headline, “The watchdog that didn’t bark” is very poignant and self-effecting. I’d like to see it used as the Congressional icon for the investigation into the BP debauchery.

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