Island County commissioner should pay up | Editorial
May 31, 2011 · Updated 1:43 PM
Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson conducted an amusing — and expensive — sideshow with her lawsuit against Island County and certain of its employees, but now it’s time to write a fat check and get on with other business.
Kelly and her husband Kenneth may have made some political hay from the matter, impressing property rights radicals with their courage and willingness to put their money where their beliefs are. Unfortunately, the legal action they brought was based on a fantasy world.
Judge Alan Hancock, an experienced, dispassionate and learned jurist, last week dismissed all of the Emersons’ allegations. At a hearing, the judge expressed skepticism at the most ridiculous charge of them all, the claim that a campaign flyer mailed by former Commissioner John Dean was libelous. Hancock pointed out that not only was the flyer not libelous, but it was the truth, since the Emersons had indeed undertaken a home improvement project near a wetland without the proper county permits. In response, the Emerson’s attorney withdrew the claim.
Last week, Judge Hancock cited case law clearly allowing government employees to walk on private property to see if a non-permitted project is in the works. This does not constitute unreasonable search and seizure.
Commissioner Kelly saw the whole legal campaign as a defense of constitutional rights, except of course the First Amendment, which allows free speech for her political opponents and everyone else. The judge dismissed all her arguments summarily, which is another way of saying they have no merit.
Commissioner Kelly remained friendly and cool through the process and has acted respectfully toward the judge. She simply took some bad advice or believes she lives in the wilderness where there is no law based on negative human impacts. Unfortunately, this area is highly populated, wetlands need protection, building permits are necessary, and that’s just the way it is.
A few years ago a number of Whidbey Islanders headed for rural Montana, seeking not gold but a place where rumor had it you could put in a septic system without a permit. Whether there is such a state of nirvana we don’t know, but perhaps the Emersons would be happier there. Once they pay the hefty fines they have racked up in Island County, of course.