EDITORIAL: Possible scandal handled correctly

Here’s a real life scenario that could easily be mishandled: A deputy sheriff in her patrol car is given a breathalyzer test by her superior, found to be legally drunk and allowed to drive home anyway.

It’s a situation that could have been covered up. Nobody else was present when it happened and the problem could have been handled by internal disciplinary procedures. Maybe nobody would find out, as it was quite an embarrassing incident to the Sheriff’s Department.

Fortunately, Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley never seriously considered trying to keep the incident quiet. He immediately made it public, announced the name of the deputy suspected of DUI and told which of her supervisors made the mistake of sending her home. A mistake, by the way, that was quickly admitted to by the sheriff. This enabled the arrest to be made a bit belatedly as it should have been made in the first place.

Sure, the incident was still embarrassing. But the public never lost trust in the Sheriff’s Department. The accused deputy resigned and Hawley announced the action of her superior was being investigated as a prelude to possible disciplinary action. Case closed.

This incident could serve as a textbook illustration for public officials on how to handle embarrassing situations. Admit it immediately and publicly, be fully truthful and the public will respect you for it. Long experience shows that covering up mistakes will eventually blow up in your face (see Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, etc.). The truth should be the first resort, not the last. For details, contact the Island County Sheriff.

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