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Union offers Inslee a test of independence he must pass

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Jan. 9, 2013 at 5:45 pm with No Comments »
January 9, 2013 5:46 pm
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

One concern that many – including this newspaper’s editorial board  – have about Jay Inslee is that the state’s next governor might be too cozy with the public employee unions.

Now the union representing Washington State Patrol troopers and sergeants – which endorsed Rob McKenna for governor – has conveniently proposed an early test of how independent Inslee might be. The union has called on him to dump WSP Chief John Batiste and replace him with its hand-picked choice, Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar.

Apparently Batiste – who served in the patrol for 28 years before being appointed chief by Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2005 – hasn’t toed the union line sufficiently. He “doesn’t seem to be aware of our issues,” said union President Tommie Pillow. Also, according to The News Tribune’s Christian Hill, Batiste is unwilling to make certain contract concessions the union wants.

By most accounts, Farrar is doing a fine job in Lakewood. He might make a very good WSP chief, although it’s quite a leap from managing 100 officers and an annual budget of $19 million to managing more than 2,400 employees and a $250 million budget. However, it would be unfortunate if Inslee were to start his term of office by taking marching orders from an employees’ union on who to hire as the state’s top cop.

If Inslee complied with the union’s wishes, wouldn’t workers at other state agencies also expect to be able to pick their own bosses?

When asked by reporter Jordan Schrader recently which state agency was “the poster child for doing it right,” Auditor Brian Sonntag quickly replied: “The State Patrol.” That was before the troopers’ union request of Inslee became public.

Sonntag said of the State Patrol, “They’ve been really good to work with – I mean, constructive, proactive … If you identify anything you think they might want to address or work on, they do right away.

“Chief Batiste, he’s as good as they come,” Sonntag said.

That’s what the public deserves in an agency head – not someone who’s been selected by the employees’ union.

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