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Saturday, March 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

GOP’s prison probe hopelessly partisan

(The following are abridged versions of Northwest editorials. They do not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board.)

The News Tribune (Tacoma), April 9

The 12-week-and-counting Republican probe into the early release of as many as 3,300 felons is on the verge of turning into a show trial whose target, former Department of Corrections chief Bernie Warner, has long since departed. Of course, Republicans’ real target is Warner’s boss, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who’s running for a second term.

The Senate majority caucus billed its fact-finding mission as a “truly independent” alternative to Inslee’s DOC investigation, but it has now become hopelessly mired in election-year squabbling. The table was set for this brouhaha in late February when the caucus burned through the $50,000 initially budgeted for its outside review, plus a second allocation of $75,000, leaving it to Republican senators and their staff to complete the work. That means the final report will carry a partisan taint, no matter the previous good work done by the outside investigators.

The inevitable result: Half the lawmakers in Olympia won’t see the Senate probe as trustworthy - even though it was ordered by a coequal branch of government, featured open public hearings and relied on signed statements from witnesses under oath. The other half won’t put their full faith in Inslee’s report - even though it was started and completed by a reputable duo of former federal prosecutors.

It’s too bad the process has grown so disagreeable, especially considering there’s no disagreement about the severity of the DOC crisis.

Everett Herald, April 8

SECRET SELECTIONS. By all accounts three of the state’s top universities have landed well-qualified and proven leaders in higher education as their new presidents. But it’s a worrisome trend that all three - starting with Ana Mari Cauce in the fall at University of Washington, then last month Kirk Schulz at Washington State University and Sabah Randhawa at Western Washington University in Bellingham - were selected without announcing the names or allowing the public to meet with other candidates.

The selection of Cauce in October even raised suspicions that UW’s regents had settled on Cauce privately in advance of an official meeting to make and announce their selection, which would be a violation of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.

Similar concerns were raised regarding the process used to select Schulz. From the start, WSU’s regents had determined that they would withhold the identities of the eight finalists. When its regents deliberated and voted in open session, candidates were identified only by letters.

Western Washington’s selection process held open the possibility that more than one candidate would be brought to the Bellingham campus. But Western trustees instead selected Randhawa in late March and scheduled his visit afterward.

In each case, the universities have justified the process as necessary to ensure an ample pool of qualified candidates. Certainly releasing the names could discourage some candidates. But that concern has to be weighed against the public’s right to a selection process that is open and transparent and allows insight into the qualities and talents candidates have and what trustees and regents value in a leader.

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