Rantz: Ignoring voters, Snohomish Exec gifts former Sheriff high paying gig
The former Sheriff of Snohomish County was gifted a high-paying gig by the County Executive he backed for re-election. It’s a slap in the face to voters and a rather egregious form of cronyism. And the newly-elected Sheriff isn’t happy.
Former sheriff Ty Trenary lost his re-election bid to his sergeant Adam Fortney. The defining issue of the campaign was Fortney’s promise to be tough on criminals. Trenary’s vision was rejected by voters. Yet, he now has a job that oversees a portion of Fortney’s responsibilities.
Executive Dave Somers dumped the news on Friday, which is what you do when you hope a decision gets as little exposure as possible. He hired Trenary as a senior policy analyst focused on emergency services, and law and justice issues. The position pays $148,100 and it will oversee a portion of Fortney’s domain.
“This is not an adversarial move,” Somers told the Everett Herald.
Somers is lying.
How we got here
Somers backed Trenary for re-election and Trenary backed Somers. Only Somers won. And from the start, he didn’t appear happy with the Fortney upset win.
Somers had planned to advance a plan to move oversight over the county’s jail from the sheriff to his office. His concern was that Fortney might actually do his job and put prolific offenders behind bars. Somers promotes a soft-on-crime approach that has caused serious problems in neighboring King County.
“I just want to stop turning my back on [prolific offenders],” Sheriff Fortney told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH at the time. “Never once have I said we’re not going to get people help once they said they want help. People just picked up on the ‘tough on crime’ tag. You can do both. Not only can we do both, we have to do both.”
After news of the Somers power play spread, residents grew upset. And when County Councilmembers Nate Nehring and Sam Low spoke out against the move, Somers retreated. But since then, there have been rumors that Somers would gift a cushy job to his friend Trenary.
An angry Sheriff
The Everett Herald reported on this move Sunday morning, but Fortney says a key detail was woefully incorrect.
Reporter Zachariah Bryan claims that Fortney has “so far has taken a hands-off approach to the jail”, giving the impression that Fortney is setting this up for Somers to take over.
Fortney wasn’t having any of this revisionist history. In a Sunday afternoon Facebook post, Fortney blasted the article:
In the article the County Executive said that I am taking a ‘hands off’ approach to Corrections. Please hear me loud and clear — THOSE WORDS HAVE NEVER LEFT MY MOUTH! I have spent more time in Corrections in the past 6 weeks than the former Sheriff did in 6 years. Not only am I involved in what Corrections is doing, just this week I discussed with Chief Kane about having an office in Corrections where I can spend at least one day a week so the elected Sheriff has more of a presence in that bureau.
And Fortney leaves no confusion over his reaction to Trenary’s hiring.
“I can’t control who the County Executive hires or fires,” Fortney said. “But I absolutely can have a hand in what goes on daily at the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and I intend to.”
Another way to pass his plan
It’s hard to see this move by Somers as anything other than a petty attempt to correct what he sees as a mistake by voters in electing Fortney. To gift his friend a high-paying job is insulting to voters who rather overwhelmingly rejected Trenary’s approach.
Some concerns with Trenary are tied to the county’s upcoming $250,000 law and justice study. Somers pitched the study as a way to create “a holistic roadmap for reforming public safety in Snohomish County.”
This appears to be Somers way of taking control over the Sheriff’s domain; a way to pursue the plan he failed to pass his previous power play. How is this not abject cronyism?
Conflicting stories by Somers
On Facebook, Somers claims, “When we first talked to Adam [Fortney] about this, he was fine with it.”
But County Council President Nate Nehring tells me Fortney “raised concerns about working with the former Sheriff in this capacity, especially on important projects like the Law & Justice study.”
Moreover, Nehring also raised concerns over this staffing decision by Somers, telling the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH in statement:
When I expressed my concerns to the Executive’s Office about this hiring and about the compatibility of Sheriff Fortney and former Sheriff Trenary working together given their history, I was told that Ty will not play a role in the Law & Justice study and that there will not be interaction between him and Sheriff Fortney unless Sheriff Fortney is comfortable with it.
But according to the Herald piece, Trenary will be supporting the study.
Where do we go from here?
Ultimately, Snohomish County residents will decide the next steps. Will they punish the cronyism? If so, how?
Trenary got the job — it sure seems like an intentional way to circumvent the will of the people. And given the way these types of positions work, it’s hard to imagine the Herald will keep a close eye on the work of Trenary.
But with Fortney, Snohomish County has a sheriff who over-communicates the inner workings of his office and pushes back at sloppy reporting and false narratives. Fortney has been quick to overturn the staffing errors made by Trenary, and has made it clear that prolific offenders will actually start paying a price. Perhaps this is why his constituents appreciate Fortney and why Somers does not.
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.