Wednesday, December 24, 1997
Corruption in City Hall
Corruption. Friends with power doing friends a favor at publicexpense. Ineptitude and stupidity also contribute to corruption. Whencity hall acts against the public interest to benefit one of theirown, then you have corruption.
The city departments that have signed off on this deal know theyare recommending a shady deal. They are not dumb. But they probablyfigured the public would never hear anything about it. And it almostwent down that way. Except for former city council person Tip Johnsonand a courageous mayor.
The Bellingham Herald never printed a word - for six months. Onlyformer city councilman Tip Johnson - through his own research - goton to this issue and testified against it. A public hearing isuseless if the public doesn't know about the topic.
Public Works - where Mr. Jack Choat is a high rankingadministrator - is the most to blame. Hello?? Jack Garner, Director,OKed this deal. This is Public Works making a gift of land owned bythe citizens of Bellingham to one of its own. Just where is ourprosecutor in all this?
The Planning Department had enough sense to finally reverse itselfand recommend against this deal at the December 8 meeting. But thecouncil was not to be deterred. They voted 6 to 1 (Louise Bjornsonagainst) to give the street right of way to Mr. Choat.
Byron Elmendorf, Director of Parks, OKed the deal. He has much toexplain.
Corruptions does not need money to change hands. People inpositions of public trust - council members and city employees - actin a corrupt manner when they do favors for each other that theywould not do for common citizens. This council tried to slam dunkthis deal because they pretty well know the next council will notgive such a sweet deal to a city employee. Do it quick and hope thepublic forgets.
We at NW Citizen plan to investigate this deal over the next fewmonths. We think this is such a set piece inside deal that it shouldbe dissected and looked at carefully to see what else can belearned.
Depending on when you read this piece, you can help prevent quietinside deals like this from happening in the future by calling yourcouncil representative and expressing your distaste for favors tocity employees. Tell them you expect clean government - even inBellingham.
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