Investigate alleged hostile comments by county’s deputy exec

Somewhere, disgraced former Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon must be basking in the “schadenfreude” — the German term for delighting in the misfortune of others — with the news coming out of the county administration building.

As Herald Writer Noah Haglund reported Thursday, County Council President Dave Somers has filed a formal complaint with County Executive John Lovick, alleging Deputy Executive Mark Ericks made “reprehensible and intolerable” remarks against him and other council members. At a meeting in late September between Ericks and Somers, Somers alleges Ericks made disparaging and lewd remarks about Council Members Terry Ryan and Ken Klein, saying “If it weren’t for the threat of jail time, I would kill (Ryan).” Somers also told Lovick he was pursing options for an outside investigation of Ericks’ remarks and apparent bullying of officials and county staff.

In his letter to Lovick, Somers details other unprofessional remarks made at a county Cabinet meeting and hostile comments during council committee meetings, allegations that can be corroborated by other county staff and video of public meetings.

Ericks attempted to dismiss the complaints, saying the comments were mischaracterized or were motivated by politics, speculating that one or more on the council are contemplating a run against Lovick next year.

If this were only a matter of vociferously voiced disagreements between the county’s executive and legislative branches on budget and other issues, we might be inclined to agree. On its face, that does not appear to be the case.

That Somers can point to a pattern of hostility and unprofessional comments gives weight to his call for a response from Lovick and an investigation.

There is too much at stake in county business, specifically the budget and how to replace the county courthouse, for its officials to be mired in more of the foolishness that Aaron Reardon and his deputies brought upon Snohomish County and its residents. The county executive’s office and the County Council must rise above this.

Two days ago, after the County Council passed a budget that eliminated half the funding that Lovick had sought for a Snohomish Health District program that connects low-income and at-risk mothers and children with needed resources, we called on Lovick and the County Council to renegotiate the budget and restore funding to the program. The program, First Steps, provides a benefit far greater than the $450,000 the county would save in its gutting.

If the loss of that program comes as a result of any hostility between administration and council, then the “reprehensible and intolerable” behavior that is alleged may go beyond the deputy executive.

Correction: In an earlier version of this editorial, the addressee of Somers’ letter was misidentified. The letter was addressed to County Executive John Lovick. The editorial has been corrected.

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