Franklin Co. screams, Richland, WA recall puts Tri-Cities to shame
At this rate, the Tri-Cités will be better known for the dysfunction of its elected officials than for the beautiful days and the great vintages.
Ingrained complacency and political hostilities on both sides of the river have been a problem for some time, but this week has been particularly troubling.
In Franklin County, elected leaders couldn’t get past Tuesday’s commission meeting without shouting or making sarcastic comments about each other.
It was a despicable display and an embarrassment.
Things started falling apart early, when Commission President Clint Didier accused Commissioner Brad Peck of interrupting him and asked him to greet the President when he joined in the conversation.
If the two men got along, we doubt something so petty would have turned into a horrible power struggle. But tempers turned from simmering to fiery and an unfortunate exchange of heated words ensued.
And it didn’t help that County Auditor Matt Beaton added fuel to the fire.
He came forward to dispute a $5,400 bill he received for hitting a county vehicle last September in the Franklin County Courthouse parking lot in his personal vehicle.
Beaton said he had an early impression the county would cover him since he is an elected official and the accident happened on county property.
But instead, he was sent the full repair bill.
During the meeting, Beaton spoke about past wrongs and old disputes and claimed the bill was politically motivated by County Attorney Shawn Sant.
When Peck attempted to interrupt Beaton for disparaging Sant, Commissioner Didier began yelling at both of them. The meeting turned into a verbal food fight.
The loss of control was absolutely shameful.
In the end, Didier and Commissioner Rocky Mullen, who attended the meeting by telephone, decided to cover the repair costs from the general fund despite Peck’s objection.
We don’t see why taxpayers should foot the bill. We also can’t understand why Mullen and Didier ignored Sant’s warning that paying the bill under the indemnity umbrella could put County in conflict in the future.
What if, for example, an elected official had an accident while driving downtown on a weekend?
When elected officials don’t listen to the advice of their agency’s attorney, it can lead to all sorts of problems.
Look what’s happening in Richland.
School board members Audra Byrd, Semi Bird and Kari Williams voted to defy the state’s indoor mask mandate for students in February.
The move forced Richland school administrators to close the school for two days because state funding was at risk. Eventually, students returned to school wearing masks until the state requirement was lifted weeks later on March 11.
It would be wonderful if the school district could just override this bad decision, but it looks like that’s not going to happen.
This week, a petition was filed to recall Byrd, Williams and Bird, who are accused of not only violating the mask mandate, but also violating state open meetings and public records laws. and violating school district ethics policies.
The Herald received text messages from the three board members saying they had discussed the vote beforehand behind the scenes.
Audra Byrd, however, had also deleted several of her texts on this chat, later claiming that her phone didn’t have enough storage space for all of them. But the law requires that these texts be registered as public documents.
She said she was trying to get them from her phone company.
Additionally, when all three school board members voted to make masks optional, the topic was not properly placed on the agenda — and it’s a violation of the school’s open meeting law. State.
All of these missteps led to the recall petition, which will likely continue to divide the community. Many people in Richland support Byrd, Bird and Williams and believe they were taking care of the children. Others want them to be held accountable for their irregularities.
If elected officials break the law, their actions are void and they accomplish nothing – except add more turmoil to an already upsetting situation.
With all this discord in the Tri-Cities, we wonder where the civility has gone.
And above all, how to recover it?
If readers have any suggestions, please respond on our Facebook page or write a letter to the editor and let us know.