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Public disclosure isn’t what ails Washam’s office

Post by Kim Bradford on May 3, 2011 at 6:27 pm with 6 Comments »
May 3, 2011 5:28 pm

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Access to public records isn’t what’s weighing down the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer’s office. Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam is.

Washam – who has spent 28 months in office trying to browbeat employees, taxpayers and other public officials to join his crusade of vindication – is now complaining about having to do his real job.

In a post on the county website last week, Washam lamented the time and expense involved in obeying open government laws.

“I want to inform my employers, the Pierce County taxpayers, of a costly trend in public records requests that has created a burden on the assessor-treasurer’s budget,” Washam began.

He went on to detail two public records requests from The News Tribune, claiming that they had cost his office $31,000 in staff time.

If Washam is to be believed, then he only has himself to blame for running up the tab. Document requests are usually handled by county records officers. Washam insisted on doing the work himself.

He should have saved himself – and taxpayers – the trouble. When the records he released came up obviously short, other county officials had to step in to oversee a redo of the work. Their efforts helped uncover nearly twice as many additional emails as Washam had initially disclosed.

Washam certainly isn’t the first local government official to self-servingly cast disclosure as a distraction from an agency’s core obligations rather than an execution of them. But it takes particular gall for Washam to argue the point.

The real distraction in the assessor-treasurer’s office isn’t public disclosure, it’s Washam’s relentless fixation on wrongs committed by his predecessor and political foe.
Washam has spent untold hours and public resources trying to make former assessor-treasurer Ken Madsen and others pay for fudging assessment rolls.

He has pursued the vendetta despite repeated admonitions that the only recourse is to complete the skipped property inspections. A recall campaign alleges that the pursuit is a gross waste of public funds, yet Washam is still undeterred.

Five days before he bemoaned the millstone of open government, Washam took to the county website to post his umpteenth call for a criminal investigation into Madsen’s misdeeds.
It was finally enough to get county officials to pull the plug on Washam’s unfettered access to the assessor-treasurer’s home page – his “pulpit of defiance,” as an outside investigator once called it.

Consider it an early gift of the recall campaign. Now that a political campaign is in play, Washam can no longer get away with using a taxpayer-supported forum as his personal soap box.

But only Pierce County voters can finish the job by supporting the recall. As long as Washam remains in office nursing a grudge and turning his indignation on anyone who dares question him, the county will see no true relief.

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Leave a comment Comments → 6
  1. pgroup says:

    Could the Trib please publish one document (out of the ones it got) that shows Washam seeking any retribution or penalty on Madsen? I only ask because I have never seen anything that shows he was trying to damage Madsen in any way.

    To the contrary, eveything I have seen states that Washam wants an audit (which he calls an investigation) to find out who falsified documents so that those documents can be corrected.

    Now I must have missed something because the Trib wouldn’t lie about it nor would it have its facts wrong, right? Just point it out to me so I can correct my personal error.

  2. sleepyhollow says:

    Don’t blame the newspaper, the reporters, nor the recall. The man who is costing the County untold dollars is Washam. Because (A,) he refuses to learn his job as assessor-treasurer, (B.) he treats his employees like trash, (C.) he never should have been in office in the first place. And to answer Pgroup, there isn’t going to be anything in writing from Washam, he is very careful about signing anything and leaving a paper trail. He has said it many times that he wants him punished and then will deny having said it. He is a liar. It is doubtful that he knows truth from fiction. Get him out of office NOW!

  3. Outsider_looking_in says:

    Just what do you think that Washam is going to uncover in the Audit that hasn’t been acknowledged by literally every elected official in Washington state at least twice. Also, do you know how to correct the tax rolls? There are no do-overs here. Do you know that most managers make difficult business decisions? I bet you don’t because it is not likely that you have ever been in management. Just like your boys Washam and Ugas.

  4. quiller4 says:

    One way to “correct” the tax rolls would be to amend the state law that requires physical inspection and permit computer valuations. With appropriate accounting for trends, computer valuation can be more accurately approximate true market values than the cursory examination field evaluators give to most properties.

    Madsen’s values were right on target even though his methods are not yet accepted in Washington although they are used in a growing number of states.

  5. pgroup says:

    What is to be found is the names of the employees who falsely signed off on documents. This would allow the documents signed by those employees to be re-done accurately.

    What most people seem to miss is that an error in one inspection does not get corrected by the next inspection. It makes the mistake/fraud live on. Thus, the property of correctly done inspections gets continually screwed year after year.

    Would anybody be surprised to find out that the four persons who filed claims were the four supervisors ordering their underlings to not do inspections? Does anybody wonder why there are NO LAWSUITS FILED even though the damage claims are about incidents that already happened?

    Who is afraid of lawsuit discovery? It isn’t Washam, which is why the blowhards do nothing more than blow hot air. If they have legitimate claims, file a lawsuit and stop talking about it.

  6. In my never humble opinion, Washam is a raving maniac that knows nothing about his job (picture the wizard of oz — “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”). He is the ultimate con man that has a volatile temper if he does not get what he wants. He loves operating “secretly”. That is his forte. He always says he will do something for you for nothing but the good cause and then the real cost comes out later — ask Lakewood Cares — If they were honest they would tell you. Unfortunately there are a few their that still drink his kool-aid. I’m curious, does he drive himself to work now? When dealing with Cares they had to have someone pick him up and take him everywhere. Don’t know why, but he was not driving back then. Wonder why? Just sayin’

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