Since Spokane County Commissioner George Marlton finished last in the Sept. 19 primary election, the joke around the courthouse is about the dust and cobwebs gathering in his office.
Marlton’s two commission colleagues say he’s been a no-show except for occasional, brief appearances, usually at public meetings.
“He’s just kind of disappeared,” commission Chairman Phil Harris said.
The result, his colleagues say, is that business is not getting done and taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth - Marlton’s $55,746-a-year salary plus $400 a month in benefits.
Harris and Commissioner Steve Hasson, both Republicans, picked Marlton in June to fill the last year of Democrat Skip Chilberg’s term. Chilberg had resigned for another job.
“This job is a gift,” Hasson said. “We gave him a gift. He’s misusing the gift. We picked a dud.”
Marlton was selected over two others nominated by the Democratic Party - John Roskelley and Frank Yuse.
Roskelley was the leading vote-getter in the primary and faces Republican Martin Burnette in the Nov. 7 general election. Marlton leaves office after the votes are certified.
“We should have picked Roskelley,” Hasson said.
Marlton returned to work Tuesday after a fourday hunting trip. Two of those days were on taxpayers’ time even though county commissioners do not accrue vacation.
Marlton angrily said “no comment” when asked Tuesday about his work attendance.
County code does not specify how many hours commissioners should work or even if they have to show up at all. Commissioners are not required to record their attendance.
Marlton is a regular at weekly Tuesday night commission meetings and attends most sessions of the Spokane Transit Authority, Spokane County Health District and Growth Management Act Steering Committee.
But he seldom has been in the office more than a few hours a week, said courthouse sources who asked not to be named because they fear retribution.
The absences began right before the primary when Marlton was campaigning, Hasson said.
They escalated after he finished last in the six-man race. The poor showing followed a courthouse scandal in which Marlton feigned masturbation and claimed that a female aide had offered him oral sex if he performed well during the taping of a campaign commercial.
Marlton’s absences mean the other commissioners must field telephone calls from his constituents - until 9 p.m. some nights, Hasson said.
“It’s been tough on Phil and me,” Hasson said. “It’s disrupted business. The liability is you don’t have a complement to help you with the decision-making. You can’t throw an idea past somebody. You can’t get a second opinion.”
Hasson said commissioners cannot afford to take but a few vacation days a year, usually a day here and a day there sandwiched around weekends.
“If you enjoy your work here and you want to get your job done, you have to put in that time,” Hasson said.
Marlton’s recent absences, he said, could not have occurred at a worse time.
On Monday, Marlton missed the commissioners’ budget hearings with Sheriff John Goldman and Public Works Director Dennis Scott. Combined, their departments account for 80 percent of the county’s $180 million annual budget.
The county is experiencing one of its worst budget crunches ever and could have used a third commissioner to deliberate, Hasson said.
“Where was George?” he asked. “We were here. This job carries with it history. You certainly want to leave good history behind. He’s left no imprint.”
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