MailerGate Teaches Us, But Will We Learn? / Facebook post, Whatcom Hawk, Wendy Harris

jail mailer herald 7 hrs October 18, 2015  Wendy Harris

A recent jail mailer issued by the county administration addressing a ballot measure right before ballots were mailed reflects abuse of power by Executive Louws on several counts. I hope this will cause some individuals and organizations to reconsider their endorsement.

The administration knew they were close to crossing a line and discussed this at length internally. Shouldn’t that fact alone, (i.e.,close to crossing the line), be reason NOT to send this out? Instead, it appears they worked closely with McEachran’s office to get as close to a campaign mailer as possible while avoiding legal trouble. Is this the proper standard of conduct we want our elected
officials to follow?

And to campaign on the public dime? 28,000 dollars? Are you kidding me? 35% of the county’s residents use the food bank and the administration is wasting money promoting an overpriced, oversized jail, without assurance that funding will still be available for social justice issues? When even the Bellingham city council thinks this is a problem, Louws is not promoting wise public policy.

If the county council did not know what was buried inside an $825,000 contract for the jail consultant, that indicates a failure by the administration. After all, staff drafts the contract, engages in the negotiations, and are the only people to understand the details of these lengthy and complex contracts. The council reviews so many different items, it does not have the time to go over every item in great detail. Instead, it must rely on the Executive and staff to disclosure the relevant and important details of the contract. And here, the Executive has failed the council and the public. I suspect that this is not an isolated event, just one that has not be exposed before.

But the real reason this mailer is improper is that it contains INFORMATION THAT IS NOT ACCURATE AND WILL MISLEAD. Determining whether a jail is overcrowded and unsafe Is a legal determination, defined in the Whatcom County Code, which thereafter mandates that the sheriff take specific actions. WWC 1.28.100. That our sheriff turned a blind eye to his legal obligations, for what he admits is decades, is disturbing.

Here was the sheriff’s legal duty to determine and to act with regard to jail overcrowding:
C. Overcrowding. The maximum capacity may be exceeded to the extent that the average daily population for any calendar month does not exceed the established maximum capacity.

D. Any report of conditions of overcrowding required under this section shall be considered as a notice of an emergency suspension of standards.

E. The chief law enforcement officer or his designee shall establish, with the cooperation of the presiding judge of the superior court, a procedure for release of prisoners before the end of their term or the transfer to other approved facilities when overcrowding occurs as defined in this chapter.

I submitted a request to the Executive two weeks ago for an explanation of whether Elfo was following the law in his actions, as they appear contrary to the county code. I was told they (Jack, Elfo) were working on it. I have heard nothing back. This is not a complex matter that requires time, review and effort. Either Elfo complied with the law, or he did not. If he did not, he should resign from office as you can not expect people to obey laws that the sheriff blatantly ignores.

MailerGate exposes a number of troubling problems with the Louw’s administration, as discussed above. Equally troubling is the support that Louw’s is receiving from progressive sources. You can not be progressive if you turn and run at the first sign of meaningful change. “Safe and complacent” works when our system works, but that, clearly, is not the situation here. I urge everyone to examine their own comfort zones and then push beyond that because uncontested races and propaganda pushing administrations are not signs of good governance.

That is why I endorse Joy Gilfilen.

Read Wendy’s post on the Whatcom Hawk Facebook here.

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