The “Prince” of Clallam County Opinion by Dale Wilson

Republished from October 2014.

Commissioner McEntire’s Power Grab

Remember “The Prince” by Machiavelli?  His premise was to get all the power you can, use that power to get more power and use that power to get more etc etc.  When someone gets elected to local office they use that office to propel themselves to yet higher office.  They join an inner circle of people who get together regularly and tell each other what a great job they are doing.  The daily paper agrees they are all doing a fine job and, while the back slapping goes round the circle, nothing gets done except congratulations.

Recently County Commissioner Jim McEntire has been much in the news, from telling County Treasurer, Selinda Barkhuis to sit down and shut up to nominating himself for the state Board of Natural Resources to revamping the Economic Development Council–banishing other elected officials — excepting himself.

Port O Call recently published articles written by Barkhuis, an elected official entrusted with managing the county’s tax dollars.  A lawyer as well as an accountant, she has great responsibility and with years of experience working in the Courthouse, is well positioned to speak to the realities of county government.  She has called-out McEntire’s assistant, Jim Jones, the county’s highest paid employee, saying he lied to the commissioners and acted in bad faith, vindictively short-staffing those who questioned him and hampering the ability of some county departments to conduct the county’s business.

Jumping to Jones’ defense, McEntire asked the County Sheriff to investigate the accusation of lying. The sheriff’s report suggested there is no law against lying to the county commissioners. Acting in bad faith is more difficult to pin down.

The complaint centered on whether the county is allowed to loan money to the city.  Jim Jones told the commissioners that it was quite fine to do so, even, allegedly misquoting a decade-old attorney general’s opinion, assuring the commissioners they would be within the law to loan nearly seven million dollars to the city of Port Angeles.

(Even if this loan can be done it must be done in consultation with the other cities in the county.  This consultation never occurred.)

Treasurer Barkhuis said “No, no,” showed where the AG report was misquoted and refused to sign such a check.  Her reasoning?  According to Barkhuis the ruling statute makes her personally responsible for paying back the money–if the city defaulted.

Barkhuis further believes Jones is playing fast and loose with taxpayer money — moving about one million dollars into the Carlsborg sewer project, without approval in open meetings.

Port O Call asked McEntire, via email, if he was in the habit of having his assistant–who is not an attorney–interpret an attorney general’s opinion–while McIntire has full access to the county prosecutor–who acts as the commissioner’s attorney. There has been no response from Mr. McEntire.

I asked Mr. McEntire if he had requested an opinion from Deb Kelly, then county prosecutor, as to the legality of the loan in question.  Again, no response.  (Update:  There is no record of requesting a legal opinion from then county prosecutor; Deb Kelly)

Instead McEntire accused Burkhuis of “character assassination” and generally acting like an uppity woman who dares to ask embarrassing questions.  Then McEntire threatened to cut the salaries of county department heads, elected officials—most of  whom are – surprise! — women.

Let’s not forget that McEntire was among the commissioners who sanctioned their own hundred thousand dollar “investigation” of another female department head last summer.

This is just the resume’needed to roil the Economic Development Council and send the remainder of our forests to Asia.

Commissioner; you have enough on your plate already–stick to your knitting–ride herd on your own assistant and don’t try to manage other county department heads.  It’s not in your job description.

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