July 25, 2010 in City

Doug Clark: Ozzie knows catbird seat is a hot one

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Read it and weep, county prosecutor candidates.

The Clark column has been officially endorsed by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

You heard me.

I said, “officially” endorsed.

Ozzie hasn’t been doling out endorsements lately, so I decided to see if he’d give me his blessing. Sure enough, our good-humored sheriff agreed to play along with my antics.

I got the idea after reading our recent front-page story about the crazy Spokane County prosecutor’s race.

This is the one to watch, folks.

We have a quartet of wannabes who have embarked on an emotional and, at times, squabbling mission: to give Prosecutor Steve Slacker, oops I meant Tucker, even more time to hone his golf swing.

Ozzie is so popular with the populace that the candidates probably would piddle themselves at the thought of winning the sheriff’s official nod.

It’s like a pack of adolescent horndogs trying to take the same hot girl to the senior prom.

(Columnist apology: Sorry, Ozzie. That’s actually a terrible metaphor. Anyone who has seen our burly lug of a sheriff would know how positively horrific he’d look in a frilly formal.)

But Ozzie has been keeping his cards tucked tightly to his chest.

Yeah, yeah. The sheriff has offered a vague general support to the Republican field. But he hasn’t really committed to any suitor in particular.

Well, except me, that is.

So I called Mr. Cool to ask what sitting in that fabled catbird seat was like.

“I may be in the catbird’s seat,” the sheriff quipped without skipping a beat, “but that cat’s getting ready to eat this canary.”

Classic Ozzie.

The man has mastered the “aw, shucks” country boy routine. But the Andy of Mayberry stuff doesn’t fool me.

The sheriff is probably the smartest public official I’ve ever come across. Plus he’s a very likable guy, to boot.

It’s a wise play for Ozzie to kick back and see what drama will unfold in the upcoming primary.

But it’s still highly interesting to note that the sheriff did NOT sign Putter’s – oops, Tucker’s – endorsement sheet. Nor did Ozzie record any pro-Tucker radio spots.

That’s gotta hurt. Tucker is the incumbent Republican prosecutor, after all.

“I don’t want to sound like sour grapes … but he kind of backed off everything he talked to me about,” Tucker said in our news story of the sheriff’s lukewarm stand.

“I hate politics.”

Translation: “Waaaa!!!”

If anyone actually believes Tucker’s whining nonsense, I’ve got a Paulsen Building I’d like to sell.

Tucker doesn’t hate politics. Tucker hates the fact that he’s facing real competition this go-round.

But don’t be glum, Steve. You were elected prosecutor in 1998, 2002 and 2006. Isn’t that enough?

Hell, “Seinfeld” only lasted nine seasons, and Tucker definitely ain’t no “Seinfeld.”

For me, Tucker’s nonhandling of the Otto Zehm case is Exhibit A in the case for a prosecutorial change.

It was a stroke of good fortune that the feds decided to investigate what happened to the innocent and mentally ill janitor who died after a violent encounter with Spokane police in 2006.

A federal grand jury indicted Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. on felony charges of excessive force and lying to investigators. The trial, which has been delayed by an evidentiary appeal, is set to begin next March.

That wait is frustrating. And anybody who says they can predict the outcome of a jury trial is a fool.

But at least this case will have its time in court. Had it stayed with Tucker, the matter would have remained dead and buried – just like Otto.

But what do I know? I’ve never sat in any catbird seat.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.

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