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Sumner councilman’s e-mails show poor judgment

Post by Kim Bradford on Aug. 11, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
August 11, 2010 5:24 pm

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Matt Richardson was apparently aware that messages written on the City of Sumner’s e-mail system are public records – aware enough that the city councilman devised a code for communicating certain information.

“… conversations about business are good here,” he wrote in 2008 to a city volunteer. “Personal things like meeting me at the Seattle Westin room 1708 on May 10 at 3, could be broken down to SWR1708-5/10-3.”

Richardson wasn’t as clever as he’d hoped: He detailed his plan to evade public disclosure in a public document.

The Sumner councilman’s bumbling, brazen attempt at obfuscation is now among the e-mail messages being reviewed by the state auditor’s office for possible ethical violations. Sumner’s code of ethics bans the use of city property for “personal convenience or profit.”

The e-mails were brought to the auditor’s attention by Chris Clifford, a supporter of state Sen. Pam Roach, whose re-election Richardson is challenging.

Clifford alleges the emails detail an extramarital dalliance between Richardson and the city volunteer.

Perhaps, perhaps not. Richardson claims the two are just friends and liked to joke about their “affair.” The only two people who probably know the truth are Richardson and the woman.

Of greater public concern is what the e-mails bare about Richardson’s fitness for the Legislature.

Over a two-month span, he sent three dozen e-mails to the volunteer full of flirtatious riddles and teasing about “sexual tension.” That speaks to a troubling lack of judgment, no matter what was happening (or not) in his personal life.

Elected officials should conduct themselves in a professional manner, and they shouldn’t be looking for ways to circumvent public oversight of their work.

At best, Richardson used the trappings of authority to engage in a wholly inappropriate conversation with a city volunteer.

That kind of official conduct does not bode well for Richardson’s ability to effectively represent the 31st Legislative District in the state Senate. Voters, take note.

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