Greg Jayne: Madore's explanation and apology don't pass smell test

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

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I like David Madore.

Well, I've never actually spoken with the man, but I like the fact that he's willing to shake up county government. And I like his rhetoric about saving money and opening the floodgates for jobs. And I like that, to a newspaper person, he's the gift that keeps on giving when you're looking for a compelling story.

So it was with great interest that I read a 1,392-word screed the Clark County commissioner posted on his Facebook page this week. Under the headline, "Don Benton — the real story of a good man and my apology," Madore detailed his recollections of how the Republican state senator came to be hired as the county's director of environmental services.

And he apologized. Yes, Madore apologized. After blaming then-County Administrator Bill Barron and fellow commissioner Steve Stuart, and the confusing nature of the meeting, Madore apologized. Not for hiring Benton, mind you, but for the manner in which the decision was made. "The buck stops here and I am responsible for the way that this was handled. I apologize for handling it badly," he wrote.

Now, you might remember that the hiring of Benton was rather controversial. Like locusts and plague and famine controversial in the minds of some people. And you might remember that it took place May 1, which means that Madore has had plenty of time to reach his epiphany about where exactly the buck stops.

But in reading Madore's explanation and his presumably heartfelt apology, it becomes clear that time can warp one's memory.

For example, Madore writes of himself and fellow commissioner Tom Mielke: "In January, Tom and I appointed Steve Stuart as chairman of the Board for this year. Our intent was to show goodwill and help with the dynamics since Steve was in a minority position as the lone Democrat on the board." Magnanimous, indeed. Except that the position of chairman historically rotates annually between the three commission seats.

And he writes that Benton fit the revamped qualifications for the job: "The Columbian published the old qualifications instead and did not reveal the new one considered excellent by our administrator." Except that the "old" qualifications are still the ones found on the county's website.

And he writes of how Stuart stormed out of the room and probably assumed that Madore and Mielke went through with Benton's hiring (which they did), adding, "The Columbian reporter had run out with his new scoop and probably assumed the same thing." Except that reporter Erik Hidle can be heard on the audio recording asking questions of Mielke at the conclusion of the meeting.

Playing the role of martyr

And along the way, Madore explains that he was discombobulated by a private revelation shortly before the meeting that Barron was planning to retire. Fair enough, although I'm not sure that makes it an appropriate time to hire a high-ranking county official. If football players are discombobulated, they have to sit out for a while. Maybe Madore should have tried working with a helmet.

Overall, Madore's explanation and his apology have been too long in the making and don't pass the smell test. The hiring still stinks. But while other government officials stumble on occasion, few have the chutzpah to play the martyr. "Any leader who steps up to defend this community will pay a price," Madore wrote. "They will be targeted. The Columbian's M&M Boys and charges of hiring an 'unqualified' crony is part of that price that we pay to stand in the gap. We pay a high price for our mistakes."

Yes, we do. We all do. But some mistakes are more costly to the public trust than others.

Madore came to office with a great deal of promise. He was going to be different; he was going to provide a fresh look at government; he was going to bring to the job the common sense of a successful business leader. That promise remains, despite a seemingly endless series of unnecessary sandbox fights with other government agencies. There's still a lot to like, if only Madore could overcome his persecution complex.