This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
Dale Washam has spent much of his life – and all of his brief time in public office – demanding a high degree of accountability from others. If only he expected a fraction of the same of himself.
Instead, reporter Sean Robinson’s three-day profile of the former industrial-solvent salesman who won the Pierce County assessor-treasurer’s office reveals a man who considers himself untouchable.
County voters should disabuse him of that notion – the sooner, the better. Washam is unfit for public office and doesn’t have enough sense to know it, a dangerous combination.
The 72-year-old came to power largely an unknown, the beneficiary of name recognition accumulated during his many political campaigns, the assumption by those who knew him that such a crank would never get elected and voter unfamiliarity with a balloting system since abandoned partly on the basis of his 2008 election.
On closer inspection, the picture that emerges from public records and interviews of those who have crossed paths with Washam is of a bully who refuses to address his own failings even as he harasses others for theirs.
Washam once sought to recall a former Pierce County auditor for resume inflation, yet he committed the same sin himself as recently as two years ago.
He claimed an employee lawsuit against his predecessor, Ken Madsen, was evidence of poor leadership – but dismisses his own run-ins with staff as the price of pursuing truth and justice.
Washam demands unbending fealty to the law – unless he’s the one in violation. He rails against those who tell him that others’ misdeeds are unpunishable and then mocks county officials’ efforts to hold him responsible for labor law violations, saying there is nothing they can do to him.
But hypocrisy is not the worst of Washam’s offenses. His mistreatment of subordinates and his callous disregard for taxpayer liability are the far bigger indictments of his fitness to serve in elected office.
He has abused his authority repeatedly, berating employees for no good reason and retaliating against those who dare complain. His single-minded drive to discredit the former assessor-treasurer and to wreak vengeance on those who committed the crime of working in the office before he arrived has squandered thousands of taxpayer dollars and exposed the county to the possible loss of millions more.
The pity is that Washam could have achieved the vindication he so desperately seeks had he focused his considerable energies on running his office rather than chasing ghosts. He really is his own worst enemy. He’s also no friend of the county residents he purports to champion in his quest to punish old foes.
Robinson’s reporting leaves no doubt that Washam is a vindictive, petty, obsessive, abusive and litigious man who brought those disastrous qualities to an important county office.
Taxpayers cannot afford two more years of getting stuck with new legal bills and mounting lawsuits so Washam can pursue his vendettas. Recall appears to be the only recourse they have, and they should exercise it.