Assessing the Assessor

Both the Seattle P-I and the Seattle Times editorialize today, demanding that longtime King County Assessor Scott Noble resign in the wake of his serious drunk-driving accident.  It would be hard to disagree.

Just any DUI should not automatically disqualify one from public office, though it certainly is more than fair fodder in a political campaign, but this incident—a near fatal u-turn on I-5, with Noble registering a blood-alcohol of .22%—is not just any DUI.  And Noble’s failure to proactively admit and apologize for the incident only compounds this gross violation of the public trust.

Were the Assessor an appointed position, Noble would no doubt be fired, and considering the seriousness of this incident there is little doubt that he would lose reelection should he be foolish enough to seek it.  Noble should do the right thing for voters, his office and himself, and resign now.


  1. 2

    Smartypants spews:

    This is deeply disappointing. Noble has been an outstanding assessor — fair and even-handed in his performance. But I have to agree that this is more than a simple DUI. People suffered significant injuries and it is remarkable that no one was killed. He should resign and get help.

  2. 3

    YellowPup spews:

    Quick editorial tip: the SPI and ST links above are reversed.

    @2: Yes, he should get out of office and get help.

  3. 5

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Noble is an outstanding assessor, I agree.
    But Goldy, you forgot to mention that Noble is a DEMOCRAT.
    I’m sure it was merely an oversight on your part.

  4. 7

    spewer spews:


    And Richard McIver, and Bobbie Bridge, and…any others?

    And I know McIver didn’t get a DUI, but I think choking your wife should merit the same sort of mea culpa.

  5. 8


    Wait. I thought alcoholism was a disease. So Noble is a victim of a disease. Should public officials with other diseases, like meningitis or pneumonia, have to resign, too?

  6. 9

    ArtFart spews:

    According to KOMO News, Noble’s been in the hospital for the four weeks since the incident, suggesting he got busted up pretty badly. This all may turn out to be moot if he’s unable to do his job because of the severity of his injuries.

  7. 10

    Puddybud, Hey it's the new year... spews:

    Was Scott drinking at a bar? Someone’s home? Well per liberal political correctness, the two ladies should sue the purveyor of the alcohol too…

  8. 11

    Richard Pope spews:

    Scott Noble could be out of office by disqualification if he gets a felony conviction. Vehicular assault is a Class B felony under RCW 46.61.522, and includes causing substantial bodily harm by driving under the influence of alcohol. Substantial bodily harm includes broken bones, which were suffered by both women in the other vehicle.

    But even if Noble were able to get the alcohol test results suppressed somehow, he would still lose on the felony conviction. Vehicular assault can also be committed by causing substantial bodily harm through either reckless driving or driving with disregard for the safety of others.

    Noble’s decision to make an abrupt U-turn on I-5 and driving the wrong direction in the traffic lanes easily counts as either reckless driving or driving with disregard for the safety of others. And somehow I don’t think that voluntary intoxication would be a valid defense to the required mental state (mens rea) …

    If Noble is convicted of a felony, then he loses his voter registration. And the King County Charter expressly requires voter registration in order to be eligible to retain an elected office. So a felony conviction should instantly make his position legally vacant.

    If Noble does not resign, look for his lawyers to try and drag the criminal proceedings out as long as possible, so that any felony conviction can be delayed, and that he is not thereby forced out of office so soon.

  9. 12

    Richard Pope spews:

    ArtFart @ 9

    There does not seem to be any legal mechanism to remove an elected official from office simply based on an inability to do the job for whatever reason. At least nothing too obvious. Perhaps recall, but the legal grounds for recall are very narrow, the court process to approve the petition takes many months, and the number of signatures required almost prohibitive.

    The law certainly allows the designation of an acting person to do the job while the elected official is incapacitated. But the elected official remains in office and gets paid regardless, unless they die, resign, or get legally removed.

  10. 13

    rhp6033 spews:

    Just for comparison purposes, Japan changed their laws last year, and driving a car after drinking ANY AMOUNT will result in a felony conviction. I’m not sure of the mechanism, but apparantly it works the same way as being caught here as a minor with anything above natural blood-alchohol levels resulting from a test. And to make matters worse for the drivers, police in Japan are REQUIRED to administer a quick blood alchohol test on the scene of every accidenet and citation.

    If you are caught driving after having consumed any alchohol, you can be convicted of a felony. The police department, upon arrest, will immediately inform your employer. For the past several years employers in Japanese publically-traded companies have been required to reveal in their prospectus and annual reports all incidents in which an employee has been convicted of a crime (not just felonies), and explain the remedial actions the company has taken. So when an employee is arrested for driving after consuming alchohol, and the police notifiy the employer, it will usually result in an immediate termination of employment.

    This is probably the most severe consequence, since employment in Japan is usually a lifetime arrangement, and getting hired in mid-career with a rap sheet in Japan is virtually unkown. The (former) employee is usually resigned to either working in a small family business, if he is lucky, or finding a job as a waiter or dishwasher in the numerous small restaurants in Japan.

    That is why the public in Japan reacted so quickly to their finance member appearing to be drunk at a press conference. They are concerned that these rules should apply in spirit, as well as by letter, to the elite as well as to the average salaryman.

    Fortunately for most Japanese, the public transit system is great in Japan, and few Japanese are in a situation where they have to drive home after an evening drinking with their colleagues. On the trains at night you can see quite a few inebriated citizens who appear to be passed out, only to surprisingly pop awake just in time to get off the train at their stop.

    One of the problems faced by Japanese employees who are working in the states is that their company rules usually apply to them, also. So even though driving home after one glass of wine at dinner is perfectly legal here, it could be enough to get them fired if it were to become known at home. Since public transit here is not anything like it is in Japan, this is causing considerable consternation as the Japanese try to adopt to not drinking at all at dinner or when they are out with their colleagues and customers. Japanese social discourse has long been fueled by alchohol, which is believed to promote bonding between colleagues and others in mutually adventageous business relationships.

  11. 14

    Tlazolteotl spews:

    Japanese social discourse has long been fueled by alchohol, which is believed to promote bonding between colleagues and others in mutually adventageous business relationships.

    Something similar is true here, as there are many folks who would probably never get laid if not for alcohol.

    Back on topic….yes, he screwed up, in a ‘violate the public trust’ kind of way, and he should resign.