Tim Connor's recent post "The French Connection" is a compelling piece of political intrigue, alledging Al French used the Spokane County Assessor's office against Bonnie Mager in the nasty race for County Commissioner's last fall.
If you recall, Mager said French broke the state's electioneering law by sponsoring email distributions that contained falses statements about property tax delinquency on grazing land that she and her husband own adjacent to their home near Cheney. The County Assessor's office provided these records to French without delay - and didn't they didn't exist before he filed his request.
In 2005, when Mager was campaigning against made a public records request about the hiring of Stephen Harris, the third son of then-County Commissioner Phil Harris to have been given a job by Spokane County during Harris's terms on the board. She wanted to know if the decision to hire the commissioner's son had been made before the job was even advertised. The county didn't offer the records.
But what’s more important is the contrast between how her request was treated with how French’s request was treated. Mager had to wait more than a month to receive a copy of the record. French got it right away, within a few hours after he requested it. Indeed, it appears the document would not even have been created had he not asked for it.
The red carpet treatment French received from the county stands in stark contrast to the aggressive resistance that Mager experienced from the county in 2005 when, as executive director for the Neighborhood Alliance, she sought much more straightforward information from the county related to the hiring of then-Commissioner Phil Harris’s son Stephen. The county, in an epic case of government stonewalling, dug its heels in arguing, among other things, that the records request from Mager was not really a request for a record, but a request to get the county to answer a question.
But on October 22, 2010, Al French filed a public records request and within hours obtained a county document that didn’t even exist before he filed his records request. Moreover, it was a record that didn’t even answer a real question—only the hypothetical question of what the Magers might owe if they were to become ineligible for the Open Space Taxation Act program. Just four days later, that document was used as the basis for making charges against the Magers that were not only demonstrably false, but flatly labeled as false by the newspaper that, earlier, had endorsed French.
I wrote about Mager's enviironmental advocacy and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Stay tuned.