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Rantz: Golden parachute of tax dollars to Snohomish official forced to resign

Here’s a maddening example of a local “golden parachute” of sorts: a Snohomish Health District official was given tens of thousands of dollars in severance after he was forced to resign.

Health officer Dr. Mark Beatty was forced into resignation “in lieu of termination,” according to documents cited by the Everett Herald. His resignation has been described as “amicable” and it came with a hefty taxpayer-funded severance package of almost $50,000, per the Herald’s calculations.

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The Herald claims a provision about Beatty’s potential unemployment insurance “made it clear” that he had been forced out of his position, which he served since August 2017.

This is outrageous, if true.

If there’s a legitimate reason to fire Beatty, it should be made public and he should be officially fired. Not only do we have the right to know, but so do future employers, especially if he lands another government job. If, for example, he just wasn’t good at his job — for whatever reason — doesn’t the county have an obligation to warn future employers? He’s being rewarded with a taxpayer-funded severance package. And we’re all being kept in the dark by the Snohomish Health District.

At the same time, another resignation was accepted from administrator Jefferson Ketchel, also earning him a substantial severance package. It caught the media off-guard, but it’s unclear why he resigned or if this was forced.

It seems this scenario unfolded to ensure the Health District isn’t sued.

“It’s critical that public agencies are careful stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH in a statement. I asked him to comment on this in a general sense, not directly connected to Beatty. “The unfortunate reality is that in this era of litigation, it is often times less costly to the taxpayer to approve severance packages than it is to go down the path of litigation. Risk management is an important consideration in these decisions and so we have to weigh that along with the need to conserve as many tax dollars as possible.”

I understand personnel issues are granted a level of privacy — and I doubt there’s any nefarious intent from the Snohomish Health District. They decided to push Beatty out the door for, what I can only assume, are good reasons that benefit the community. But we should be granted significantly more transparency into decisions being made, particularly when we’re funding those decisions with our tax dollars.

A number listed for Beatty was disconnected and I could not reach him for comment. Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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