Letters to the Editor

Island County commissioner admits mistake

It’s not often that a public official admits wrongdoing, offers an apology and then advances his restitution all at one setting. All Island County citizens should take note of this remarkable event.

According to the May 23 edition of The Whidbey Examiner, Commissioner Mac McDowell admitted that, on May 12, he instructed his assistant, Ingrid Smith, to call the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce on his behalf to reserve a place for his campaign-decorated truck in the May 24 Coupeville Memorial Day Parade. The details that follow are noteworthy in that they reveal much about the character of Mr. McDowell:

In carrying out her boss’s request, Ms. Smith made seven calls, six of which were conducted during normal business hours on May 12.

The deadline for entering a vehicle in the parade was April 21, a fact made clear to Mr. McDowell by the parade coordinator, Joyce Claus.

Mr. McDowell had originally planned to be out of town that day, but belatedly became interested in the parade when he found out that his opponent, Oak Harbor businesswoman Angie Homola, would be participating.

As a veteran, Mr. McDowell was offered a seat in one of the classic cars that featured veterans; however, he declined because it would not accommodate one of his campaign signs.

When his request to have his campaign truck entered into the parade was denied, he expressed his displeasure to the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Susan and President Sarah Richards, Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard, and Coupeville Marshal David Penrod.

When all of his efforts to enter the parade as a candidate and a veteran were thwarted, he proclaimed, “I guess they can’t accommodate a veteran.”

The following week on May 30, The Whidbey Examiner reported that Mr. McDowell made a formal apology for his “big mistake” at the end of a regular commissioner staff session on May 21. He also sent a $14 check to the Island County Treasurer’s Office for the Island County cost of his assistant’s time in making the parade phone calls on his behalf.

So what was his “big mistake?” Mac McDowell specifically violated RCW 42.17.130, which prohibits elected public officials from using any of the facilities of their office, which includes office space and employees, during working hours, for the expressed purpose, directly or indirectly, of assisting a campaign for the election of any person to any office. Mr. McDowell has been in office for 16 years and, by his own admission, is well aware of state campaign laws; in fact, he has personally tutored his staff about the rules that govern campaigns.

Mr. McDowell’s actions are forgivable, but not excusable. They are clearly politically motivated and represent an abuse of his office. Elected officials are expected to follow the law. If they choose to or inadvertently break the law, they should be held accountable to the people. The public deserves and should demand more than an apology and a monetary token from any individual who has exploited his elected position.

In November the voters of Island County will have an opportunity to effect a change in the make-up of the County Commissioners. When they cast their ballots, I sincerely hope that they will remember this blatant example of Mr. McDowell’s modus operandi and reject any elected officials who do not respect the law and violate the public’s trust.

Marshall F. Goldberg

Oak Harbor

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