Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Clark County: When A County Government Goes Bad

The Clark County Commission appointed a GOP State Senator Don Benton to head their Environmental  Services Department. Besides the question of his qualifications for the job (benton-clark-county-environmental-services-job) a more repellent aspect of this action by two of the three Clark County Commissioners was the process that forced Benton's predecessor out (benton-predecessor-forced-out). The short version: the director was trying to take action against a couple of county employees to that were doing free lance work on county time. One of the employees was a friend of one of the commissioners.

Well yuk is about all I can say.

In Washington State the default form of county governance is the county is run by three elected commissioners. Some counties have shifted to a charter form of government with what amounts to a locally crafted form of government. Typically this leads to an elected council and elected executive (Whatcom, Snohomish, King and Pierce) but Clalam has stuck with the three commissioner scheme (they elect the planning director) and San Juan the most recent went with a council and a hired manager.

All the other counties (I'm doing this from memory) have the default 3 commissioners. Any government is only as good as the folks that get elected. It is an efficient way to run a local government and a commissioner can be much more responsive to citizen concerns as all she/he needs to do is persuade one other commissioner. The down side is commissioners are very powerful and if they are unable to check their own power, you get the mess like Clark County.   

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