King County voters should elect Mitzi Johanknecht as sheriff because Sheriff John Urquhart’s management style and campaign actions have eroded his credibility.
As the race for King County sheriff continues to devolve, the only hope is to elect a new sheriff.
Mitzi Johanknecht, a 32-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, is not a perfect candidate. But she offers a welcome change from Sheriff John Urquhart, whose management style has alienated much of his workforce. His own actions have eroded his credibility.
Two such actions came to light this past week.
As reported in The Seattle Times, the Sheriff’s Office paid a deputy more than $160,000 in cash, legal costs and back pay, and severed the employment relationship. That sum was part of an unusual settlement that was paid out in smaller sums so it did not receive the required level of scrutiny for a settlement of that amount.
The former deputy says the money was supposed to stop his attempts to expose wrongdoing in the department. The Sheriff’s Office says the settlement was aimed at removing a deputy prone to insubordination and unwarranted attacks on his superiors.
The restructured payout appears to have been a cynical effort to avoid vetting by the county executive and the public.
In separate news on Monday, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against Urquhart to prevent him from contacting a female ex-deputy who accused him of raping her in 2002. Seattle police have cleared him of criminal charges in the rape accusation. But in her request for the restraining order, the woman alleged that Urquhart’s political campaign offered to share her medical records with at least one group considering whether to endorse Urquhart for re-election.
In its endorsement of Johanknecht, Equal Rights Washington, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said Urquhart’s campaign offered to send the victim’s medical file “to prove that she was ‘crazy’ and ‘not credible.’ ”
The group declined that offer, saying in its endorsement that the offer was “an incredible violation on so many levels.” Urquhart’s chief of staff, Chris Barringer, disputed Equal Rights Washington’s version of the story, saying there is no medical file and the offer was never made.
Public officials have a responsibility to be transparent and run clean campaigns. Urquhart’s tenure as sheriff and campaign are too fraught to give him another chance.
King County voters should choose Johanknecht as their next sheriff so we can put this ugly campaign and this period at the sheriff’s office behind us.