Old boy network strikes again

Commissioner Mac McDowell hypocritically claimed he couldn’t do anything to fix the Jefferds McMansion mistake because he had to follow the law. Now he and his fellow commissioners have voted to replace me on the Historical Review Committee claiming my term expired Aug. 13 despite the fact that the enabling ordinance clearly and unambiguously states that all appointments shall be for terms of four years. His rationale: my appointment letter stated that I was finishing someone else’s term that expired Aug. 13.

It doesn’t matter to him that the ordinance does not give the commissioners the authority to appoint applicants to finish out other appointee’s terms. It doesn’t matter to him that the commissioners are only empowered to appoint to four-year HRC terms. He and Commissioner Phil Bakke wanted to be rid of me because I have been outspoken in my defense of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve to their political embarrassment. They wanted to be rid of me because I, among others, have been spotlighting county government incompetence and the favors being done for their political supporters, again embarrassing them.

They claim that they have a legal opinion from the county prosecutor that supports their position that my term expired and they can replace me, but they won’t share that legal opinion. And it is just that, the county attorney’s opinion, if it in fact exists at all. Have they submitted the issue to a judge for a determination? Of course they haven’t. They don’t want a judge to second-guess them.

This is how Mac does business, and how he has run this county for the past 16 years. If the rule of law is to be applied, it’ll be up to me to file a declaratory judgment action. That way a judge can decide once and for all how appointments to the HRC are supposed to be made under the ordinance.

The commissioners will tell you they took this action, not out of political retribution, but to try to take a “time out” from the dissention and try to get everyone (the commission, the planning department and the HRC) back working together. Does anyone really believe this? Both McDowell and Bakke, along with their planning department, have made it clear that protecting the Reserve isn’t a priority. The Reserve stands in the way of progress, in other words: development.

I am only one member of the HRC. Why are they so afraid of me? Is it because they couldn’t intimidate me into submission? Is it because I understand what they are up to? Or am I just the first to go? This battle was never about me. I am just one member of a generally unanimous HRC. The battle is about whether we protect or continue to develop in the Reserve.

Given the stakes for the Reserve, it was disappointing that Commissioner Dean joined McDowell and Bakke in this vote, thus offering them political cover. John Dean was elected, in part, to change the “old boy network” that has ruled Island County for as long as anyone can remember. He wants everyone to work together. Sometimes that just isn’t possible. Clearly the only way we are going to bring the rule of law and transparency back to county government is to elect Angie Homola and Helen Price Johnson in place of McDowell and Bakke. It’s time to clean house. I’ll do my part. It’s up to the electors to do theirs as well.

Paula Spina


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