Sheriff Sue Rahr went to a King County Charter Review Commission subcommittee last night armed with an endorsement from a panel, which reviewed her office in 2006, recommending that power to negotiate the terms of labor contracts rests with her, rather than Executive Ron Sims.
The entire meeting had the feeling of watching your parents fight as a kid. They tell you how much they love each other before taking a series of passive-aggressive pot shots until the lawyers are called in.
Both Rahr and representatives of the Executive's office began their remarks by insisting that they had the utmost respect for each other, adding that their concerns were in part hypothetical--if say, there is ever a Sheriff and Executive that are at loggerheads. But not these two, just, you know, in theory.
In 2006, the panel created a list of 36 actions they felt were essential to getting the department on track. Most have not been completed because they have to be addressed by the guild labor negotiations, according to the Sheriff's report on the panel's recommendations. And Rahr wants the power to do that in part because, she says, she's the one held accountable for the management of the department, not the Executive, who is negotiating.
"I can't think of a single instance when the Executive has stepped forward and taken responsibility for the behavior of my employees," she says. During a break, she mentioned to one of the commission members that when the shit (her word) really hits the fan--like in the PI "Conduct Unbecoming" series--she's left standing out solo while Sims is slinging arrows. In addition to getting the panel on board, former governor Gary Locke sent a letter backing Rahr.
Sims Chief of Staff Kurt Triplett began his remarks arguing that changing the charter is too drastic by noting: "As you all know, we have the highest respect for the Sheriff." This is coming from the same man who, at a meeting of the Commission in November, was pushing to return to the days of an appointed Sheriff, rather than an elected one. He says that putting negotiating power in the hands of the Sheriff will increase the County's exposure in a lawsuit should the department end up with a contract that conflicts with other County employee contracts.
The committee members focused questions and comments on the need for more dialog between the Sheriff and Executive so it doesn't look like a charter change is coming in the near future, but expect a lot of mudslinging between the two the next time an off-duty deputy is arrested for assault.