Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson and her husband, Ken, need to bring the years-long battle to a swift end.
It is within their power now.
On his way out the door, Island County Planning Director Bob Pederson slapped the Emersons with a $37,000 fine, payable in 14 days, or face a possible lien against their property.
It was during a 2010 campaign battle with her predecessor that planning department officials learned the Emersons were building a patio at their Camano Island residence without first obtaining a permit.
Officials with the planning department issued a stop-work order during a visit to the property saying they found what they believed to be a wetland.
Presence of a wetland complicates the permit process.
The Emersons maintain that there was no wetland on the property, and the commissioner and her husband sued Island County, and embarked on a lengthy battle.
At this point, the Emersons can pay the fine and end litigation, appeal Pederson’s order, or simply not respond.
Commissioner Emerson wouldn’t say what she and her husband plan to do now, but she continues to remain defiant.
“We have no wetland and we have damaged nothing so why should we be fined?” Emerson asked.
If the Emersons appeal the fine, and the hearing examiner sides with the county, the issue could conceivably go before the board of commissioners. This has the potential to put the entire board in an uncomfortable position.
Emerson has clear conflict of interest and should not be involved in deliberation or voting on the matter. She shouldn’t even discuss it with her fellow commissioners, Jill Johnson and Helen Price Johnson, or Island County staffers.
Hopefully the Emersons will bring this entire debacle to an end and spare Island County taxpayers any added expense.
• Keven R. Graves is executive editor and publisher of the Whidbey News-Times. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org