Animal Advocates Let Slip the Dogs of War on Kurt Triplett

When Ron Sims got called up to the majors, the council decided that rather than give his seat to someone who wants to run for a full term in the fall, it would appoint a caretaker. That's a shift in the way it's been done in the past, Sims ran for a full term after being appointed to replace exiting executive Gary Locke. The change mostly came about because two of the council members--Larry Phillips and Dow Constantine are already running for the top spot and at the time Bob Ferguson was considering throwing his hat into the ring as well.

About that time, according to a variety of county gossipers, Sims' Chief of Staff, Kurt Triplett, began quietly lobbying for the spot. Triplett has burned more than a few bridges in his time as Sims' bulldog. Notably he went after Sheriff Sue Rahr, making sure people in charge of deciding whether or not to restructure the department knew that Sims thought the position should be appointed. Rahr is on the panel that will forward a recommendation to the council for replacing Sims, assuming he's confirmed by the full Senate.

Still, Triplett is in a unique position. He's so intimately tied to Sims that if you're talking to both of them, he'll actually talk over Sims a bit--acting as a kind of interpreter when Sims waxes a little vague or falls into platitudes. So at a time of transition, on a practical level, he makes a lot of sense. But now a group calling themselves King County Animal Care and Control Exposed is after Triplett, sending a letter [pdf] to the council dated May 1, saying: "Please select anyone but current executive chief of staff Kurt Triplett."

Buzz at the county was Triplett was pretty inevitable, what with his intimate knowledge of county finances. The county is still trying to sort out ways to use some of the new taxing authority granted to cover deficits to address a projected $40 million to $50 million shortfall next year. They've already made a lot of cuts after facing a $93 million shortfall last year. Not to mention Sims' lifeboat is about to sink.

The other three people under consideration to fill out the final seven months or so of Sims' term are former Republican council members Steve Hammond and Louise Miller and former Seattle mayor Charles Royer. Hammond and Miller are pretty much out by virtue of party affiliation (technically this is a non-partisan appointment, but let's not kid ourselves). Royer is popular and we actually made him the odds favorite for the spot.

But realistically, Triplett just makes a lot of sense. After all, he'll already fill in as the Executive in the days between Sims' official appointment and the council approving his replacement. And Royer's been out of government for two decades. It was almost a done deal, were it not for those darn homeless animals.

KCACC's letter to the council accuses Triplett of encouraging Sims to withhold a report by the University of California, Davis on the King County animal shelters until after the council approved spending $965,000 on improvements to the shelters last spring. They attach an e-mail from Triplett to Sims wherein Triplett suggests releasing the report in light of the finished deal on the appropriation.

Triplett told the PI, who first reported the letter, that it was only a draft report and the council was aware of its existence.

It doesn't necessarily knock Triplett out of the running, he still knows the budget situation better than anyone else. Still, if it looks like putting him in the top spot will lose favor with voters, Larry Phillips, Dow Constantine, and their fellow council members will be loath to vote for Triplett.

Tayloe Washburn, chair of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and an attorney at Foster Pepper, sits on the panel charged with forwarding a recommendation to the council for replacing Sims. He says he hasn't seen the KCACC letter. The panel is scheduled to meet to discuss the nominated replacements on May 13.

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