David Irons Jr.’s mother has mixed emotions about her son. On the upside, she says he’s “very good with his hands.” On the downside, she claims he’s used them to beat her.
I’m almost embarrassed to start with such a flippant lede… for my hour-long conversation with Janet Irons was both sad and disturbing, and the genuine pain she expressed surely deserves more respect. But this is a story that apparently demands the most shocking prose possible in order to be heard, for it is also one of those stories that everybody in the media seems to know, yet nobody wants to talk about.
In an era when pundits and reporters can soberly chronicle the impeachment of a president for lying about a blowjob, it seems inconceivable that our local media could ignore the character testimony of a candidate’s own parents. But that is exactly what the MSM has done for years, most recently with Joni Balter’s timid, almost-apologia of a column in the September 29 edition of the Seattle Times. [”Irons’ Burden? It’s all relative“]
Balter starts by asking the obvious and pertinent question — “Who is David Irons Jr. and why is much of his family unwilling to vote for him…?” — yet she amazingly leads readers to believe that the family feud is merely rooted in politics.
That is not the story the Irons family told me, nor the one they claim they told Balter. Irons’ mother, father and younger sister won’t vote for him because they believe him to be “dishonest”, “devious”, prone to violent outbursts, and “totally unqualified” to serve as King County Executive. The family cites a number of incidents, many dating from long before Irons’ 1999 run for county council, that call into question his fitness for office and paints the picture of a troubled, unstable man with a vastly inflated resume, a penchant for dirty tricks, and dubious ethics.
“Wouldn’t I like to be the proud mother and say yes,” Janet told me when I opened the interview by asking whether she supports her son’s candidacy, “but that just isn’t the case.” She then went on to recount the sad tale of David Jr.’s gradual estrangement from the family, whichculminated in his council run, rather than started from it as Balter implies.
Of course, the fact that Irons’ family refuses to vote for him is old news. During his 1999 campaign against Councilman Brian Derdowski, he not only smeared the reputation of his family’s longtime friend, but his victory also put his sister Di Irons, a Derdowski staffer, out of a job. Di’s write-in campaign against her older brother during the general election became amusing fodder for political writers nationwide, but the MSM has remained curiously uncurious about the private circumstances that led to this very public family split. Take for example Balter’s description of Janet’s refusal to endorse her own son, an oddly expurgated bit of reporting:
Irons’ mother is an independent who votes for — or in this case against — individual candidates. Angry about a different family matter years ago, she won’t support her son.
A “family matter”. How concise.
As tearfully recounted to me by Janet, the “family matter” involved an incident that occurred back during the early 1990’s at her office in the family cable company, when David Jr., during one of his frequent fits of rage, hit his mother, knocking her to the floor… and then ripped the phone off the wall when she attempted to dial 911. Frightened, shocked and in pain, Janet fled in her car, hiding several blocks away, “afraid he was coming again.”
Janet has never again allowed herself to be alone with David Jr. since the day the “family matter” occurred. More than a decade later she remains frightened of her own son, even fretting to me that “something might happen” should he read her account in the papers.
As for David Jr., he never denied to his family that something happened that day… he never straightened the office to hide signs of the struggle, nor picked up the typewriter, papers and other objects he angrily swept off his mother’s desk. However, he did deny to his father and sister that he actually hit his mother, incredibly claiming that she ran into his arm… an account that reads like those laughable accident reports where stunned drivers insist that the tree hit their car.
If this were but a single, isolated incident it still would be inexcusable, and in my opinion disqualify him from higher office. But the Irons’ family has many tales of David Jr.’s “violent temper” and his abusive, cuss-filled rages in which he would push his father and poke him in the chest, and occasionally fling objects in blind anger. In one such fit he threw a wrench at his nephew, Di’s son Chris, who afterwards went to his grandfather and refused to ever work with his uncle again. Even the hard-nosed crews who laid cable for the family business complained of working with David Jr., finding it unsettling to have the boss’s son indiscriminately toss obscenities and tools in their direction.
“David billows up easily,” his mother told me in her understated fashion, “and people ought to know.”
Well… many who have worked with him apparently do know. At Brigadoon.com, a former officer tells me that Irons had a reputation as a “bully” who many colleagues avoided entirely. According to council scuttlebutt, Irons has a similar reputation for bullying staffers — particularly women — several of whom reportedly played for colleagues recordings of abusive voicemail messages left for them by the choleric councilman. Derdowski says an unnamed council staffer complained to him that Irons was “abusive and rude”, while another former staffer recalled to me a copy machine mishap that ended in a door-slamming screaming fit.
None of this shocks David Jr.’s mother, who describes her son as “very difficult to get along with.” If anything, she seemed most surprised that he hasn’t shown more of his temper in public. “He sometimes goes bonkers,” she said.
But if Janet is at times understated in describing her son’s explosive temper, it is nothing compared to Balter’s muffled reporting of the family’s assessment of David Jr.’s character:
The candidate’s dad is a Republican likely to vote for Sims because of the vague term, veracity, or in his view, his son’s lack of it.
There is nothing vague about the term “veracity”, and what the family has bluntly told both Balter and me — and anybody else who will listen — is that David Jr. is a liar.
“David lies about all of us,” his mother lamented. According to family members, acquaintances and co-workers, David Jr. has lied to reporters, he’s lied to voters, he’s lied to his family, and he’s lied to the police. Derdowski, who has plenty to be bitter about, is particularly disturbed by what he sees as easily refuted “outlandish lies” from which Irons’ had little or nothing to gain.
“I don’t have the professional experience to diagnose him as a ‘pathological liar’,” Derdowski told me, “but there is a pattern of making false statements where David apparently doesn’t seem to know the difference. I find it chilling.”
Of course, the easiest lies to document are those on Irons’ resume, and at the very start of our conversation Janet immediately made a point of refuting some of her son’s educational claims. In a 1999 candidate survey, Irons — who has no undergraduate degree — described his college education as “Economics/Math, Bellevue Community College, 1971-1973; Economics/Math, Oakland University, 1973-1975.” Unprompted, Janet pulled out her son’s Oakland University transcript, which shows “Intro to Math for Social Studies” I and II, plus a math lab. “Those were the only math courses he ever took,” his mother told me. “David was never very good at math.”
But exaggerating his math education is nothing compared to some of the other doozies on his resume. While Irons’ campaign website biography now describes his involvement in the family business as simply “VP & co-owner All Points Cable TV — 1982 to 1995″, a 1997 resume was considerably more creative.
Both Janet and Di actually laughed at the suggestion that David Jr. was involved in the day-to-day operations and management of the company. “David…?” Di chuckled, “He maintained the trucks.” She says her brother also occasionally liked to operate the equipment out on cable laying jobs, “but mostly he worked alone in the garage.”
Janet echoed her daughter’s account, describing her son’s resume as an exaggeration: “99 percent of what he wrote, there’s not one bit of truth to it.” According to Janet, her son had no office, had absolutely no role in the management of the family business, and while he once accompanied his father on a business trip, he had no involvement in any negotiations. Still, both Di and Janet agree that David Jr. was good at what he did. “He’s an excellent mechanic…” his mother kvelled, “… good with machinery… very good with his hands.”
While his years at the family business may have prepared Irons for a job in the maintenance facility at the county motor pool, it most certainly did not provide the vaunted business experience he touts in his quest to be county executive. Even the one-line reference on his current bio, “VP & co-owner”, is intentionally misleading.
“At a small company like ours, everybody gets a big title,” explained his mother. And if Irons was a co-owner of All Points Cable TV, then I am a co-owner of Apple Computer… and any other corporation in which I might own stock. According to his family, Irons never invested money in the family business, never had a say in its operations, and only came to work for his parents years after the company’s founding. Because David Sr. wanted his children to have a financial stake in the company, he gave David Jr. a raise a couple years into his tenure, but paid the difference in stock instead of cash. When the family sold out in 1995, David Jr.’s take was a couple hundred thousand dollars… not a bad windfall for the company mechanic, but only a small fraction of the multimillion dollar deal.
But lying on your resume is nothing compared to lying to the police. In what his family considers to be but one of his many dirty campaign tricks, they claim David Jr. filed a false police report about a week before the 1999 election, accusing his nephew Chris, the son of his opponent/sister, of vandalizing his car. The family adamantly swears that Chris was at home at the time of the alleged incident… a fact of which they insist David Jr. was well aware. Chris even used his own money to pay for a polygraph test, but when he tried to clear his name by presenting the results to the Sammamish police a few weeks after the election, he was told that his uncle had quietly dropped the charges, claiming Chris had admitted to the crime and agreed to pay restitution… both of which were out and out lies.
To file a false police report about your own nephew was a fitting conclusion to a campaign that had been built on lies and dirty tricks. This was a campaign engineered by the Master Builder’s Association, but one in which Irons ironically campaigned against the eminently green Derdowski for not doing more to control sprawl. It was a campaign where Derdowski signs mysteriously disappeared, and when a local resident, Sara Ulrich, saw Irons himself removing a Derdowski sign she had planted, and asked him what he had done with her sign, he unapologetically replied he had “lost over 14,000 signs.”
This is the David Irons Jr… the tool throwing, obscenity spewing, resume faking, police report falsifying, mother beating, lying, cheating campaign trickster for whom his father, mother and sister refuse to vote.
By all accounts the Irons family had once been very close… bizarrely close… dysfunctionallyclose… all living together on the same Sammamish cul de sac… her parents to one side of Di’s house, her brother to the other. The family used to live together, work together, rent houses by the ocean together, but over time their relationship with David Jr. slowly deteriorated. The brooding David Jr. moved away from the family enclave, and eventually stopped attending family dinners and other events, feigning illness or using some other excuse.
To claim as Balter does, that “a private family squabble spilled into the public realm’’ only after Di ran against her brother as a write-in candidate, is a bizarre misreading of the sequence of events, for it was David Jr., after years of gradually distancing himself from the family, who chose to bring the “squabble” to a head and take it public by running against a close family friend, and putting his little sister out of work. It was David Jr. who estranged himself from his parents and sister, and who has repeatedly gone public with attacks against the family.
A former council staffer describes Irons as nearly appearing sympathetic, almost teary-eyed around the holiday season as he lamented the fact that his children could not enjoy Christmas with their grandparents and cousins. But according to his family, David Jr.’s exile is self-imposed. In 1999 he told his parents that if they did not support him politically, they would never see their grandchildren again… and much to their surprise he actually followed through on the threat. He even forbade his parents to send his children birthday and holiday cards, leaving a voicemail message saying that his girls had shredded their gift checks. (A year later, two of the checks cleared.)
Irons of course, blames his estrangement on his family, once complaining to the Issaquah Press that they never let him know that his 97-year-old grandfather was sick and dying. But according to Di, he hadn’t called or visited the man for over five years, and so they assumed he had as little interest in seeing his grandfather as he did in seeing his own parents.
In telling this story — a story Irons’ mother, father and sister want to be told — I know full well that I am going to piss people off. There are those of you who will say that I have sunk too low… that I have inappropriately brought a man’s private life into the public realm. But to you I ask… since when has a man’s character not been the subject of political campaigns? Just last year John Manning was virtually dismissed as a serious candidate for Seattle City Council because of a prior domestic violence conviction… a conviction Irons might share if he had not had the foresight to tear the phone off the wall before his mother could dial 911.
And to my friends in the media, who have thus far failed to cover this story, I ask you this: how is it possibly responsible journalism to tell the amusing tale of a candidate whose own mother won’t vote for him… yet refuse to attempt to explain to voters the reasons why?
If you reject this story as just another case of he said/she said, then why not reject the entire story, instead of just the part that requires a little elbow grease? How hard is it to research a candidate’s resume to determine if his claims are based in fact? How hard is it to interview former co-workers, employees and neighbors to see if they corroborate the family’s charges? How hard is it to look up a damn police report? Isn’t that your job?
Irons’ own family — the people who know him best — have made devastating charges against his character and qualifications… doesn’t the public have a right to know?
And finally, to those cynical amongst you who question the timing of this post, appearing just as the absentee ballots are dropped in the mail, and thus positioned to have maximum impact… I want to personally assure you that this is absolutely intentional. This is not merely a strategic move on my part, but one which appeals to my unique sense of irony.
You see, back in 1999, when Irons first entered the council race, Derdowski went to the Irons family, who were longtime friends and backers, and said he would not want or expect them to support him in opposition to their son. And so Irons’ mother and father stayed quietly on the sidelines, despite their misgivings about David Jr.’s qualifications.
The night before the absentee ballots dropped for the primary election, Derdowski and Irons’ attended a candidate forum sponsored by the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce, at which the Irons’ family was in attendance. Much to his surprise, the first written question posed to Derdowski was “Are you under investigation by the FBI?”
As it turned out, Derdowski had been under investigation by the FBI during much of the campaign (he’s not sure for what), but the investigation had recently come to a close without indictment or comment. And so Derdowski truthfully answered “No.”
It was a setup. At this point, as Irons’ mother Janet describes it, notorious Eastside developer Skip Rowley exclaimed “We got him! We got him!” while gleefully wringing his hands. Irons immediately stood up and charged that Derdowski was indeed under investigation. An unusually heavy media presence in the audience (apparently tipped off that something would happen) hit the story strong the next day, and by the time the truth played its way through the press a week or so later, the damage had already been done. Derdowski lost the early absentee ballots big, and went on to lose the election.
For months, David Jr. had been bragging to his family that he had a “secret weapon” in his race against Derdowski, and that night they realized what it was. Shocked and offended by what they perceived to be a dirty trick, it was only then, a few weeks before the primary, that Irons’ parents finally came out in public support of Derdowski and in opposition to their own son.
“I’m not proud of my son,” Janet sadly lamented about his political success, “because he didn’t do it the right way. I’m disappointed that he approaches the level he does, and that I didn’t do a better job raising him.”
What started years before with Irons’ violent outbursts, and continued through his brooding, gradual disengagement from his parents and sister, culminated that night in the family split that continues to this day. It was not their son’s politics that prompted his parents to go public, but rather his tactics — specifically, the unfair, public maligning of an old family friend — a dirty trick that to those who knew David Jr. best, must have seemed tragically, unfortunately, and entirely in character.
And so tonight, as I prepare to air Irons’ dirty laundry on the eve of the absentee ballots being mailed, I do so without remorse, and without regret. What goes around comes around.
Oh… and I’ll be talking to Kirby Wilbur tomorrow morning at 7AM, 570-KVI.