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Washam paints bull’s eye on Pierce County taxpayers

Post by Kim Bradford on Aug. 28, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
August 28, 2010 4:09 pm

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Dale Washam has a hypocritical allegiance to the law.

The Pierce County assessor-treasurer demands that his enemies – whose ranks seem to grow by the day – be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. But his own transgressions? They should be dismissed as the price of his crusade for justice.

Actually, it’s worse than that. Washam doesn’t just expect a pass; he refuses to acknowledge that he might have done anything wrong.

How else to explain the fact that Washam has received yet another finding of official misconduct, his third in a year?

Three times, independent investigators have found that Washam violated state and federal law by retaliating against employees. Three times, Washam has declined to accept any responsibility.

His actions – which amount to misfeasance if not malfeasance – expose the county’s taxpayers to increasing liability.

The $67,000 the county’s already spent to investigate complaints against Washam is a pittance compared to the bill Pierce County is likely to eventually pay for Washam’s fluke 2008 election.

No one’s filed a lawsuit yet, but wait. A boss who breaks labor and whistleblower laws despite multiple warnings to desist? A county official who abuses authority and demeans employees to the point that they resign rather than put up with the abuse?

This is an employment lawyer’s dream.

What exactly are Pierce County taxpayers getting for assuming greater risk? Washam, when he’s not mistreating employees, seems to spend his time firing off letters to the governor, attorney general’s office, the state auditor, the Department of Revenue, the Pierce County sheriff and the Tacoma police demanding an inquiry into his predecessor’s misdeeds.

Such an investigation would likely conclude that former Assessor-Treasurer Ken Madsen skirted the law by substituting statistical methods to revalue properties instead of conducting physical inspections. It would also likely conclude that Madsen sought to cover up his dereliction of duty.

In other words, it would tell the county exactly what it already knows. What then? What more does Washam want – to see Madsen prosecuted for falsifying county records?

What is the possible outcome that wouldn’t merely add to Washam’s personal vindication, but also get the county closer to finishing all those physical inspections left undone?

Washam seeks to make a break with the past by punishing employees who lived through it. He essentially asks county residents to abide illegal management practices in exchange for correct appraisal procedures.

Pierce County shouldn’t settle for so little. County officials and voters should begin exploring ways to cut their losses.

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