Some lawmakers are criticizing strong language about “wimpy” people in the Department of Ecology’s investigator training manual.
The manual instructs investigators to keep an eye out for several types of potential polluters, including “wimpy people who act nice but in reality want to get you.
“How do you know if you are working with a truly nice person or a wimp?” the manual reads. “You don’t, so your actions and methods must be ‘bomb proof.”’ Proponents of a bill aimed at clarifying procedures for Ecology Department investigators say language in the manual is improper and too informal for an official document.
“‘Wimpy’ is a little nondefinable,” said Sen. Bob Morton, R-Orient, sponsor of SB 5208.
Dick Wallace, a policy analyst for the department’s water quality program who has testified against the bill, said some lawmakers are misinterpreting the intent of the language.
“It essentially was trying to inform our inspectors of different personality types,” Wallace said. “It was a user-friendly way to describe someone who is passive on the outside and aggressive on the inside.”
Rep. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, doesn’t believe the language was “user-friendly” and said public officials shouldn’t speak of citizens in derogatory terms.
“I don’t know how you define a ‘wimp’ but I don’t think it’s a positive description,” Schoesler said. “I think it illustrates the whole attitude. I don’t think any elected official would condone this training manual.”
Wallace said the Department of Ecology may revise the language in the manual on its own to clear up any misunderstandings.
The main focus of the bill is to make the names of people who call in environmental complaints public information. Schoesler and Morton argue that people currently can harass others by making unsubstantiated complaints against them.
The bill would also offer a clearer definition of when investigators can examine private property. Currently, investigation is allowed if no property owner is available to deny access.
“They tell their people to trespass onto private property,” Schoesler said. “Currently, the DOE has a greater ability to investigate citizens than law enforcement.”
The bill has passed by the Senate and could be voted on in the House this week.
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