Opinion: Fighting among elected officials is unhelpful, unacceptable

  • Friday, January 5, 2018 1:36pm
  • Opinion

An Island County commissioner acted outrageously and shamefully this week in attacking the county’s elected prosecutor because she was still sore about losing a court case to him a year ago.

Commissioner Jill Johnson lost her temper and accused Prosecutor Greg Banks of lying and even called him “a snake.”

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson and Banks himself weren’t exactly paradigms of professionalism either. Price Johnson raised her voice and brought up the settled court case, which really had no bearing on the issue at hand and definitely wasn’t constructive.

Banks got worked up and fought back. It may be understandable that he defended himself, but the commissioners are his clients and he has a professional responsibility beyond that of other elected officials.

Only Commissioner Rick Hannold remained civil and tried to get the discussion back on track.

Banks attended the commissioners’ work session Wednesday to ask them to authorize the hiring of outside counsel to help defend against a lawsuit filed by developer Wright’s Crossing. Two commissioners saw irony in this request because Banks had filed a lawsuit asserting that the commissioners couldn’t hire their own attorney without his permission since he’s elected to be their attorney. The state Supreme Court agreed with Banks’ position.

There is no irony. In this case, Banks is giving his permission for outside counsel to be hired and the commissioners should trust him to know when his office needs such help. After all, it’s an important case the commissioners want to win.

This is not the first time that Commissioner Johnson was accused of losing her temper at Banks and acting inappropriately. In 2016, at least two staff members in the prosecutor’s office complained to HR after Johnson got upset in his office and screamed profanities for all to hear. She allegedly continued her tirade as she left the building. It’s no small matter; one staff member said she was left shaken.

This is not the way an elected official should act. They should be models of civility and rationality. They shouldn’t let vendettas color their discussion or decision-making process.

Last year a group of citizens concerned with the lack of civility in public discourse started a group called “Civility First.” They hoped to spark a move toward courteous dialogue, starting with the “Civility First pledge.”

We urge Johnson — and elected officials in general — to take the pledge and to take it to heart.

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