[In a fit of nostalgia (and laziness), I’m marking my remaining days here on HA by posting links to some of my favorite and most influential posts. If you have favorites you’d like to see, please let me know.]
If a statewide elected official were to humiliate a young female employee in front of her coworkers and supervisors by inappropriately touching her—twice—while lewdly remarking on her breasts, and ultimately leading to her resignation… you’d think that might generate a few headlines from a local press corps proven oh so sensitive on matters of perceived personal offense. But apparently, not if that elected official is a likable, grandfatherly type, like Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland.
The incident dates back almost three and a half years, and while hushed whispers have been making the rounds for nearly as long, it was not until March of 2008 that the allegation was substantiated through a public records request that produced a 62-page document detailing a number of eyewitness accounts. (The name of the victim is redacted throughout.) Yet even with this document in hand, multiple news organizations have declined to inform voters of an undisputed incident that portrays a shocking lapse of judgment on the part of Commissioner Sutherland, a management style disruptive to the operations of his agency, and a clear violation of his department’s anti-harassment policies, if not the law itself.
Perhaps no post better illustrates the crucial role of independent bloggers like me than this muckraking expose on then Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland, and his sexual harassment scandal. The story, excruciatingly documented in 62 pages of public records, had been shopped around for months, but no mainstream news organization would run with it. Finally, as a last resort, the documents came to me, and after a couple weeks of further investigation and careful study, I posted. The next day the story hit the front page of the Seattle Times (prompting me to print up Seattle Times business cards with title “Volunteer Ombudsman”)… and Sutherland went on to lose a close reelection race to Democrat Peter Goldmark.