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McCarthy revokes Washam’s internet posting privileges, alleging assessor is politicking on county website during campaign to recall him

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on April 29, 2011 at 1:29 pm with 19 Comments »
May 1, 2011 12:27 am
Dale Washam

Dale Washam’s internet posting privileges were stripped away today by Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, who says Washam was using the asssessor-treasurer’s website for politicking during a recall campaign against him.

In addition, McCarthy ordered the removal of two items Washam posted over the last several days.

It’s an unusual action and one no one in county government could recall happening before.

McCarthy and Washam are both elected officials, and Washam argued McCarthy didn’t have the authority to rule on what he could and could not put on his department’s website.

County officials couldn’t reach Washam this afternoon; McCarthy notified him of the changes in writing.

In an eight-paragraph memo she sent at 3:25 p.m., McCarthy told Washam she took the actions because he refused to remove online posts “that appear to constitute a misuse of public resources for personal purposes.”

She did so on the advice of Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Doug Vanscoy, and a letter from Vanscoy to Washam was published on the assessor-treasurer’s website.

Under McCarthy’s order, Washam and his staff can create messages for the website, but they can’t publish them without her consent.

“Effective immediately, content you wish to promote must first be reviewed and approved by me and, if necessary, counsel from the prosecuting attorney’s office,” McCarthy wrote.

The ruling will not affect routine business uses of the assessor-treasurer’s website, such as the software that allows users to look up property tax information.

McCarthy’s orders revoking Washam’s internet privileges came following an exchange of e-mails in which she asked him to remove some material and he refused.

“Dale, I did not want it to come to this,” she wrote this afternoon. “Numerous county employees have tried to work with you so that the assessor-treasurer’s office can be as successful as possible. But your recent actions left me no choice.”

If Washam wants to defend his actions or refute the critics who want to recall him from office, he should do it with personal resources, not the county website, she said, adding that she’s open to restoring his “full online access” if an understanding can be reached.

The News Tribune could not reach Washam for comment.

About 1:30 this afternoon, county information technology employees, on McCarthy’s order, deleted two of Washam’s internet posts and added the memo from Vanscoy.

Vanscoy’s letter, sent to Washam at 11:58 this morning, says one of Washam’s memos to taxpayers constitutes “a direct link to the recall petition” and uses county property for personal purposes.

Another of Washam’s missives appears to retaliate against The News Tribune for its reporting of the recall against him, Vanscoy writes.

Washam’s postings included one on April 27 criticizing The News Tribune for what he described as burdensome and costly public records requests.

An April 22 “update” from Washam spoke at length about his complaints that required physical inspections of properties were skipped in the county under his predecessor. He again complains that records were “falsified” and asked: “…how long must the Pierce County taxpayers wait for the proper Investigation they deserve?”

Pat McCarthy

McCarthy told Washam in a memo on Thursday that the April 22 posting “involves issues directly relating to the pending recall petition against you, and the 4/27 item is a criticism of The News Tribune, which has run a series of articles concerning your activities and the recall.”

“The county needs to remain neutral on the recall petition, and the ATR (Assessor-Treasurer) county website is for official business use,” she wrote. “Ultimate authority for the website is in the purview of the executive.”

If Washam wants to refute his critics, he should do so using “personal resources, not the county’s website,” she added.

Washam replied shortly before 11 this morning. He posted both McCarthy’s letter to him and his reply on the website.

“I believe your request is without merit…” he wrote to McCarthy.

The April 22 posting revolves around a discussion that’s not new and has been carried on via the assessor’s website since early 2009, Washam told McCarthy.

The April 27 posting “is merely an announcement for a new feature that will be made available on the ATR website concerning all public records requests,” he added.

“I do not agree that the Pierce County Executive is granted censorship over the ATR website and thereby given authority over the communications between another duly elected official and his constituents,” Washam wrote.

He also asked McCarthy to cite the authority under which she was making the request.

Though Washam’s April 22 and 27 bulletins to taxpayers were removed, county officials left intact the e-mails between McCarthy and Washam and added the note to Washam from Vanscoy.

Puyallup resident Robin Farris launched a recall effort against Washam last fall. He fought it in the courts, claiming it didn’t meet necessary standards for a recall. She won and is now in the signature-gathering stage.

The crux of the campaign is an allegation that Washam is guilty of malfeasance. It charges he’s violated his oath of office and acted improperly.

His actions are illegal because of “a gross waste of funds and how he treats his staff,” she previously told The News Tribune.

A series of investigations has found that Washam retaliated against employees and created a hostile work environment.

Several claims against the county have been filed by employees or former employees as the result of Washam’s actions since he took office in early 2009. One was settled for $79,000. The others seek damages of more than $4 million.

Here’s what the assessor’s web page looked like this morning before the changes were made:

Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer website screenshot. Click to see full image.
Leave a comment Comments → 19
  1. jiminycricket says:

    Pure, plain and simple, Dale Washam has used his county government website for his own personal use and as a vendetta against those opposed to him. This is more proof that he’s eaten too much of the “fruit cake” and needs to go! Thanks, Executive McCarthy, for standing up to this bully, and standing up for the citizens of Pierce County!

  2. Washam should never have been elected, and now the cleanup will be expensive and burdensome to the taxpayers he was supposed to serve.

  3. It’s too bad we have to waste time and money recalling this incompitent loser.
    If he was half the person he claims to be he would resign and save us all a ton of money.

  4. Washam is cotinuously a unbelivable drain on the resources of Pierce County. His actions are shameful.

  5. Apophthegm says:

    Why is this transpiring on-line using county resources? I don’t really care who’s posting the items – – they all appear to be intended for a different venue. This is the peak of unprofessionalism on all parts.

    Make the site unavailable until relevant community resources are posted.

    This is an improper use of public resources.

  6. angiensi says:

    I agree whole heartedly with xtp. He doesn’t care about the taxpayers at all!

  7. BlaineCGarver says:

    I believe he has reacted badly, but I also believe he is being punished for uncovering criminal activity by the previous office holder. Well, not criminal, but certainly incompetent performance by not inspecting properties properly.

  8. Should someone make a public disclosure request of Vanscoy’s records just to see what is in there about this manufactured incident? How about McCarthy’s?

    I wonder how McCarthy knew about the postings. Is she visiting that website as a part of her duties to protect the county? Or did someone tip her off, and who is that someone?

    I find it fascinating that the county’s official position is that a recall is a political issue separate from an office holder’s public responsibilities yet the county has no problem spending public funds (taxpayer money) defending other officials subjected to recall (such as Prosecutor Mark Lindquist). Is ignorance of hypocrisy a job requirement in Pierce County government? Is the ability to present contradictory positions a job performance ability for Pierce County employment?

    Where is the line here? Vanscoy has no problem using county equipment to express his opinion about the content of a county elected official’s public statements (albeit on a county website) while his necessarily partisan opinion is posted on that same website.

    Seriously, the Department of Health needs to check for environmental contamination in the County-City building. It is obvious that there is some neuron misfiring going on.

    This is not going to end well for the county since those who are supposed to be performing their jobs are too concerned with exacting political revenge.

    I suggest that Vanscoy use his Lexis-Nexus account to review some of the new law on the subject of political speech, starting with the Citizens United case and including the Synder versus Phelps case. He might realize just how far away from current constitutional standards his legal advice is.

    But I doubt that he cares, just as I doubt that McCarthy cares. It isn’t their money that is ever at stake so being right or wrong is simply irrrelevant.

    People better get real about what Dale is doing. Sooner or later, this 33 year old mess is going to end up in court by some property owner seeking recovery of wrongfully paid taxes. At that point in time, it will be too late to do the right thing voluntarily.

  9. I was friends with Dale Washam for several years until one day in my business when I saw the real Dale Washam. The man is a self-righteous fraud.

  10. Kris
    Why was the 4/22/11 blog also removed?
    The one that had the 1978 reports from the Assessor-Treasure Office discussing the issue of non compliant assessments? This blog had nothing to do with the two issues cited by the Exec …….. but it sure is a very interesting read and maybe answers the “Cui Bono” question on why no action has ever been taken by the State. Sounds like Assessments here in Pierce and possibly all of WA state have been inaccurate for years with the full knowledge of all aspects of govt.

    UPDATE 04/22/2011 – 11:00 AM
    To my employers the Pierce County Taxpayers, in 1978 Pierce County Appraiser Gary
    Foreman in a memorandum dated December 29, 1978 stated ”We have found that
    because of no physical inspections in the last six years that the effective age
    (depreciation) is simply out-of-date. The foundation of all computer
    updating and trending is predicated on valid data. Too many houses have
    been remodeled and too much land has been subdivided in the county,
    without a physical inspection, to make valid comparisons for computer
    updating or trending. Because of inaccurate land characteristics, simply
    stated, computer trending of land has not worked.”
    In 2008, that same Pierce County Appraiser Gary Foreman in a letter he presented
    to me shortly before I took office, states: ”We have been cooking the books with
    appraiser initials on residential appraisals and not completing the 6 year
    residential physical inspection cycle.” (See Statement of Facts, Appendix A).
    Dale Washam, Assessor-Treasure r
    Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/pc/abtus/ourorg/at/at.htm

  11. mattersnot1 says:

    I’ve read the two postings McCarthy is complaining about and she removed. I see nothing there that in any way is about any recall movement.
    I found nothing in the Assessor/Treasurer’s Posting that were offensive.
    Why isn’t Mr. Washam allowed to inform the taxpayers about how much public records requests, to his office, costs them?
    The cost of Public Records Requests has been a hot topic with the Legislature this session. I wonder how they are going to react to this move by the Pierce County Executive. She is only an elected official; not QUEEN.

  12. Doggone right she’s not the Queen – Gregoire is. And there’s only room for one queen.

    The deletion is the first substative evidence that a cover-up is in play. From this point forward, every action done by the county hacks will sit on that foundation.

    Are they going to try to scrub the records? We will see.

  13. tacomajoe says:

    The citizens of Pierce County know the truth and the actions of running dogs like the recallers will have no effect on his re-election. KEEP IT GOING DALE – SHOW ‘EM WHAT YOU GOT!

  14. mattersnot1 says:

    Hum….What’s McCarthy’s dog in this fight? Maybe her time as the County Auditor should be investigated. After all, its the Auditor’s office that records the conveyance of property, something the Assessor’s office relies on to be legally correct.

  15. I voted for Dale because he had ran for office since I was a kid, about time for him to finally win one! He is like a bull in a china shop which is politically incorrect, you don’t force/fire someone out of a job, you give them great praises and promote them out. Fire them by promotion. If you fire them, then you better have fully justified and documented counsellings to back up your actions or they will sue and win whether they were good or bad employees. Its a fact of government. That is why the County council is paying past employees for resigning (its easier).

  16. Very very interesting that after all this time McCarthy acts now and includes deleting the info regarding falsified Assessment records being called to the govts attention since 1978?? Huh??
    So is that the explanation on why the local and State refuse to have a non biased investigation of Washams claims done? Because more heads than Madsens would be under the axe if the truth came to light?
    Is it not so much of ” who benefited” but instead who has been defrauded for all these years .. as in residents of Pierce County or even the whole of WA state on piddly poor assessments? Seems like we are hearing more and more state wide stories of Assessors Offices and Assessment issues.. maybe this is a long known problem that has been hiding under all this avoidance of investigation.
    I for one cannot see any other reason for McCarthy to step in at this point but also for the deletion of the April 22 AT blog on the subject.

    Dang.. wish for the old PI style investigative reporting or maybe KOMO will do a feature on the real story and status of validity of WA state property .. assessment issues.
    might blow all the Bell news coverage awards to dust- ya think?

  17. firewasham says:

    Thank you Ms. McCarthy for your leadership courage.

  18. Schletzie says:

    Thank you Pat for finally stepping up and stepping on Washam for using the PCAT website for his own personal use. This has been going on for months, everyone who knows of Washam has wondered the same thing. He was voted in, but there should be a law for someone like Washam that creates as much havoc as he does, to actually fire him from office. He is such a poor representative of us taxpayers in that office.

  19. What if Washam has been right all along?

    Wouldn’t the old political cronies and long term county employees who have participated in the illegalities want to conspire against him to keep the cover-up covered up?

    It’s not like we’ve never seen a government cover-up in this country ever before!

    What if Washam is right?

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