Barlean makes performance an issue

Republican candidate Kelly Barlean has defined his campaign for Island County prosecutor largely in terms of what he’s not, which is to say: his opponent.

Nearly every campaign issue Barlean pulls out of his political hat refers in some manner to the “problems” or “lack of judgement” of his opponent, incumbent county prosecutor and second-term hopeful Greg Banks.

Whether arguing that Banks is soft on child molesters or too quick to plead down DUIs, Barlean — a lame-duck state representative who entered the prosecutor current race after chucking his bid for Congress — appears to have discovered an aggressive theme in his run for office. For Barlean, it’s all about Banks’ record, to which he’s clamped his jaws with all the stubborn ferocity of a pit bull in attack mode.

In fact, according to Barlean, if it weren’t for Banks’ questionable performance, he wouldn’t be running for prosecutor at all. It was concerned people, mostly unnamed law enforcement folks, imploring him to run for the position that Barlean said finally convinced him to throw his hat in the ring.

“The more I looked into it, the worse it looked,” Barlean said Thursday, adding that people who contacted him about problems in the prosecutors office “went beyond law enforcement to people working in the courtroom.”

According to Barlean, those critical of Banks had been “biting their tongues” because they figured Banks was running unopposed and they didn’t want their feelings known for his next four years in office.

This is characteristic of the tenor of Barlean’s campaign, which regularly portrays Banks as incommunicative, unprofessional and reactionary. For Barlean, it seems to be as much about putting Banks out as getting himself in.

Chief among Barlean’s criticisms is that Banks has failed to garner the support of local law enforcement agencies, while Barlean has received endorsements from Oak Harbor and Coupeville police guilds, as well as Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley. Barlean and Hawley are Republicans, while Banks is a Democrat. Though most agencies, including the county sheriff’s union, have remained neutral, Barlean said this is tantamount to a lack of support.

“Not showing confidence in the incumbent speaks volumes,” Barlean said. “Greg doesn’t have the endorsement of a single law agency out there.”

Banks has received endorsements from former Island County Sheriff Arnie Freund as well as numerous other county and city prosecutors.

In Barlean’s eyes, this lack of support is a result of a “lack of communication” between the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement agencies. There are too many instances in which Banks is causing criminal cases to be plead down rather than prosecuted as charged, such as when a plea bargain knocks a rape charge down to assault. Barlean failed to cite a specific example.

Also, Barlean claimed, victims are not being informed when plea agreements are being struck.

“That’s what’s frustrating to the cops,” he said. “There’s too much wheeling and dealing. Banks doesn’t give officers or victims a chance for input.”

It’s important to build strong ties of communication between the prosecutor and local cops, Barlean said, adding that he would have an “open door” policy with all law enforcement officials. He also said he’d work more extensively in prepping officers as witnesses in court in order to “tailor testimony” to create a strong case for prosecution.

“You can strengthen a case considerably ahead of time,” Barlean said. He added that as prosecutor he would also work to make officers more comfortable in approaching his office for such things as procuring wire-taps for investigations.

While Barlean admitted that the protection of civil rights is a concern, he criticized Banks for making civil rights protections a high priority in his office. “That’s like saying, ‘My job is to protect the people from the police,’” Barlean said. “My priority is going to be to the people and to the victims.”

Barlean said if elected prosecutor he would be a strong advocate for victims of crimes, along with being tougher on such highly emotional criminal cases as sex crimes and instances of child molestation.

“The victim’s advocates are not happy,” Barlean said about the current situation in the prosecutor’s office. “The prosecutor is not treating victims with compassion and zeal.”

Of particular concern, he said, is the poor performance of the current prosecutor in the area of DUI driving convictions. Barlean said he would be particularly tough on drunk drivers. “Keeping the roads safe is clearly a non-negotiable priority,” he said. “I intent to spend an awful lot of time in court.”

Banks has argued that his conviction rate for prosecuting DUI cases as charge is 20 percent above the state-wide average. To this, Barlean replied: “Lies, damn lies and statistics.”

Regarding Banks’ conviction rate, Barlean added: “It could be higher.”

Barlean also was critical of what he called Banks’ “temperament” for office, citing an e-mail in which Banks used a certain curse word while corresponding with an Island County sheriff’s deputy.

“I have never in my life as a public official used the F-word in my communication,” he said. “I think that shows his lack of temperament for the office. That just shows his lack of judgement.”

While Barlean has no experience working in the prosecutor’s office, he pointed out that Banks was in a similar position when he took office four years ago. He said his experience serving in the Air Force as an intelligence analyst, and later as an Army infantryman, have prepared his for leadership. Barlean also mentioned his three years of running a four-attorney law office in Everett as well as his current experience as a state representative as good indications of his ability to lead.

As a state representative, Barlean was appointed to the Appropriations Committee as well as the Capital Budget Committee and the Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee.

“I know how to foster an environment of teamwork,” he said. “I’m a very mission oriented person.”

Barlean said he’s anxious to take over as prosecutor if elected. Especially exciting, he added, is the opportunity to put law and order in the county back on the right track.

“I want to rebuild the working relationship with the law enforcement agencies,” Barlean said. “Right now, it’s clearly dysfunctional.”

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 26
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates