Time for Emerson to put an end to fighting, lawsuits over permit | Editorial

Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson has, for the second time in three years, filed a lawsuit against the county Planning Department concerning the same issue — the dispute over a building permit.

It’s unfortunate that the fires of this seemingly endless debate are relit under the banner of righteousness.

This long-drawn-out controversy began in 2010 during Emerson’s campaign to unseat former District No. 3 Democrat Commissioner John Dean. Word got out that Emerson and her husband, Kenneth, were building a deck at their Camano Island home without first obtaining a county permit.

It became a campaign issue and Emerson was quick to cast the blame on Dean, former county planning director Bob Pederson and others.

The Emersons even took them to court, but a Superior Court judge did not see it their way.

But the debate didn’t end there.

The Emersons started battling it out with the county — that time over the existence of an alleged wetland on the property.

Earlier this year it appeared a resolution was reached and peace finally achieved.

It came after Pederson ended the stalemate by ordering the Emersons to pay $37,000 in fines or face the prospects of a lien gainst their property.

It was one of Pederson’s last acts as planning director before he resigned.

The county, which obtained special legal representation from Snohomish County due to conflict of interest issues, brokered a deal with the Emersons’ lawyers in which the couple would only have to pay a fraction of the original fine — $5,000 — but only after the county returned $2,000 in filing fees.

While the details of the ongoing dispute are somewhat complicated, having to do with wetland requirements, the  Emersons’ argument is based on an idea that government has overstepped its power and might inexcusably infringe on their constitutional rights.

There are times when one must stick to their ideals and fight for what they believe, but that time has long since passed for the Emersons.

The issue was debated in court, by lawyers in private discussion, and by county and state regulators, and none but a few paid consultants and a handful of constituents have sided with the Emersons.

By continuing the argument by filing yet another lawsuit, the Emersons aren’t being the self-sacrificing soldiers of liberty they portray themselves to be. Rather, they are acting more like children throwing a tantrum because they aren’t getting their way.

Emerson was elected by the people to spend taxpayers’ money wisely, not sue the county.

The time has come to end this issue.

Put aside your righteousness, Commissioner Emerson, and show your constituents what it really means to lead by example.


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