Whidbey News-Times


Filing a frivolous lawsuit is not being a good watchdog | Publisher's Column

October 10, 2013 · 9:39 AM

I believe watchdogs have their place in government. Too many people are apathetic about their government, local or otherwise, and that’s a sad condition of our society.

I’ve sat through many a local planning commission or city council meeting and gritted my teeth, minutes ticking away into hours, as someone would inevitably stand up and begin asking a flurry of lengthy and complicated questions.

While I may have selfishly wanted to go home after a long day, I remained cognizant of the fact that our process of open government allows for everyone to speak up and be heard. Besides, there were often some good questions asked, ones I hadn’t thought of.

Anyone willing to become an active participant in the government process deserves respect. Our government leaders are not, and should never be, immune to tough questions.

Bill Burnett has gone beyond government watchdog, acting more like a rabid pitbull.

Burnett is wont to complain about government waste, but he sued Island County because Commissioner Kelly Emerson was stripped of her chairmanship through her own actions. In his lawsuit, Burnett sought to have Emerson reinstalled as commissioner.

The county’s attorneys issued Burnett a list of what was required to move his complaint forward. Burnett, acting as his own attorney, essentially received some free legal advice at the taxpayer’s expense.

The 45-day deadline for Burnett to prepare additional documents and file a brief of appellant in Superior Court passed.

Throughout this process, Burnett, a frequent critic of Whidbey News-Times coverage, failed to return phone calls or talk on the record about his lawsuit. For someone who likes to complain that the newspaper fails to cover issues fairly, Burnett has been conspicuously silent.

Burnett had his day in court. His lawsuit is languishing. It’s my guess he saw the writing on the wall and was hoping the matter would just vanish without notice.

In filing his frivolous lawsuit, Bill Burnett effectively succeeded in making himself part of the problem rather than part of solution.

That’s not being a good watchdog.


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