Opinion

Time to show Banks the door

Amy Dempsey is one of the most talented and dedicated people to work as an attorney in the Island County Prosecutor’s Office in years, and to hear the recent comments about her by Prosecutor Greg Banks, in the March 26 article in the Whidbey News-Times was very disturbing.

Ms. Dempsey’s character, skill, and commitment to her work for the prosecutor’s office were praised by co-workers, as well as a respected member of the bench who worked with her on a daily basis. She won a series of prestigious awards from the State Bar Association for her work in public interest law. Her prior employer, doing public defender work in Seattle, gave her the highest possible recommendations. She had a distinguished record when she tried to remain neutral in the last election, rather than endorsing her employer, Mr. Banks.

To say that Mr. Banks seems to lack ethical sensitivity, good judgment and the leadership qualities that we have a right to expect from public officials seems wholly inadequate to describe this situation. There is also a cowardly and obsessive, bullying quality to Mr. Banks’ attacks on this young woman, which I hope is as apparent to others as it is to me.

Banks’ justification for his recent smear of Dempsey, is because he is simply honoring the public’s right to know the facts. But Banks settled the civil case filed by Dempsey and paid her $300,000. to keep the facts of his prior conduct toward her secret. He now resorts to the use of an affidavit of prejudice to get a deceptive version of the “facts” into the public record, to pave the way for his next election, in a forum that memorializes his self-serving story without facing the many witnesses against him in a public forum.

Dempsey’s fiancé was flying combat missions in Afghanistan while Mr. Banks was abusing Ms. Dempsey, and Mr. Banks’ also now implies that calls from her fiancé, when he returned, were harassment. Now Mr. Banks is the victim.

There is an alarmingly long list of dedicated young lawyers who have apparently been unable to tolerate working under Mr. Banks, and have left the prosecutor’s office. Dempsey is the only one with the stomach to publicly stand up to Banks’ conduct, and in doing so she has both shown courage and leadership, and has put her career at risk. How long do we expect her to shoulder this burden of vindictive assaults alone?

Mr. Banks’ temperament seems to make him incapable of taking responsibility for his conduct, and he lightly dismisses the prior settlement payment as, “just a business decision made because of the high cost of defending lawsuits.” Mr. Banks is a serial offender who seems unwilling to learn from his prior mistakes and the $300,000 in damages previously paid were apparently insufficient as a deterrent – probably because they were paid by the county, not him.

How many checks is the county willing to write to pay for Mr. Banks’ bizarre, vindictive conduct? Are the risk managers managing the risk? Where are the county’s leaders?

I write in the hopes that others will join me in speaking out against this abuse of power, and working toward getting Mr. Banks out of office as soon as possible. Talented and dedicated young people like Ms. Dempsey, who are willing to make the sacrifice required of public service, are a valuable commodity that we need to preserve. When the time comes, Dempsey would make an outstanding judge. People of good will to say – enough is enough. It is long past time for Mr. Banks to leave office.

Truman Castle, an attorney, lives in Freeland.

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