Opinion

Sound Off: Good reasons to fire Selby

I accept your invitation to inform the public about the operations of the prosecuting attorney’s office and to explain why terminating Mr. Selby’s employment was necessary for the effective operation of the office.

In your April 19 editorial you stated: “There’s no reason an elected prosecutor like Banks can’t continue to work with a challenger like Selby.” Your statement is incorrect when the challenger is a chief deputy prosecutor.

The position of chief deputy is like a cabinet position in the White House. A chief deputy must be a trusted and loyal advisor. Like the President’s cabinet members, a chief deputy serves at the pleasure of his boss. No one would expect the Chief of Staff to stay on at the White House if he announced he was going to run against his boss, especially where the announcement included harsh unfounded attacks on the President.

An elected prosecutor and his chief make policies, pick legal strategies, and address personnel matters based on candid and confidential discussions. Those discussions can only take place where there is absolute trust and honesty. I must have confidence that sensitive advice is not distorted by my chief’s political ambitions. By secretly planning to run against me for weeks, while assuring me that he had taken no such steps, Mr. Selby demonstrated that I could no longer trust him.

On Friday, April 14 a reporter first told me of Mr. Selby’s candidacy. I worked in my office well into Friday evening with my door wide open so Mr. Selby could tell me of his plans face-to-face. I expected that we would talk and he would offer his resignation. I thought we would shake hands, parting company as adversaries, but not enemies. He never took that opportunity to tell me he was running, refusing even to make eye contact the rest of the day. He did not call me all weekend, and I realized he was not going to resign.

I have consulted with other elected prosecutors, counsel in my office, and other attorneys I trust. Their advice was unanimous: A prosecutor’s office cannot function where its two leaders are campaigning against one another. As painful as it was to me personally and politically, I had no choice but to let him go.

On Monday, April 17, I told my most trusted advisor and my friend of seven years that he had to leave immediately. I was concerned that he would disrupt the office if he lingered. I stayed out of his way until he gathered all of his belongings, and allowed him as much time as he needed. I was firm but polite, and treated him with dignity. Regrettably, I cannot say that he returned that courtesy.

I was not motivated by anger or revenge. Nor was this a hurried decision. It was simply what had to be done, regardless of how unpopular it was. I had to act quickly and decisively to allow the office to return to its duties.

It is noteworthy that Mr. Selby came to Washington from California because his former boss had been voted out, and the prosecutor-elect planned to replace Selby with a chief that was loyal to the incoming administration. It could not have surprised Mr. Selby that he could no longer be my trusted advisor once he became my political opponent. Mr. Selby’s decision not to resign, and then acting indignant at being terminated was nothing more than grand political theater.

In closing, I want to assure the public that my staff continues to serve Island County with the same dedication and skill as they have since I took office. They know that regardless of their allegiance toward my opponent or me, their first duty is to the public. I have the highest confidence that this group of skilled professionals will carry out our mission with integrity, in spite of being dragged unwillingly into a political soap opera.

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