I haven’t found the time to post much lately, homework, work, kids football and the list goes on, but as our next chance to vote fast approaches I’m finding that one crucial issue has not come fully to light.  The issue is whatever went on in the Whatcom County Treasurers Office between Steve Oliver and one of his employees as well as how our County Executive Pete Kremen handled it.   I can’t tell you what went on for sure, only that something apparently has gone on, but that is the point of this post.   I hope that our local media will shed some light on what has gone on, before we receive ballots asking us to again vote these men into public office.  The people of Whatcom County deserve to know.

For months now I’ve heard rumors of a scandal between County Treasurer Steve Oliver and one of his employees as well as a subsequent hush hush dealing with the situation by County Executive Pete Kremen.   I’ve seen no direct evidence of the situation, so these rumors have remained rumors from my standpoint; I’ve never repeated them.  I frankly had hoped that both County Executive Pete Kremen and County Treasurer Steve Oliver would quietly end their political careers by not seeking re-election this year, or  in Mr. Kremen’s case, election to a new position on the County Council.  Withdrawing candidacy could have left what is undoubtedly also a sensitive personal issue to be dealt with on a personal, not public level.   Sadly it doesn’t look like that is the way it will go down.

Both these men were recently questioned on this subject in open public forums and both seemed to acknowledge the situation, taking it out of the realm of gossip and rumor.  Yet, neither shed light on the facts of the situation and, as of several days later, I’ve read nothing in the news.  So in lieu of the real media at this point, I’ll pass along what I believe to know in hopes that we can make more informed decision.

At a recent NW Business Club forum, County Executive Kremen was asked if he bypassed the human resources department in dealing with a serious situation at the Whatcom County Treasurers office and his response apparently confirmed that he did.

Next, Whatcom County Treasurer Steve Oliver was asked at a Birch Bay candidate forum if he, while in office, did or did not engage in a relationship with a female employee that involved any form of affection, physical contact, sexual contact, or any other inappropriate conduct.  And as a follow up he was asked how that kind of behavior would affect his ability to conduct the duties of the Treasurer’s office.  His response was along the lines that there was no complaint, no grievance, no lawsuit, no threat of a lawsuit and that there had been no liability.  And as far as I know, he didn’t deny anything and as far as I know, he didn’t answer the followup about the effect of this on the Treasurer’s office.

The lack of denial by either Pete Kremen or Steve Oliver gives substance to what had been only  rumors.  Apparently scandal did occur at the County Treasurers office and apparently it was dealt with in a less than standard fashion at the County Executive level.

I think the smartest move at this point would be for Pete Kremen and Steve Oliver to withdraw themselves from candidacy, however I won’t be holding my breath.  But with ballots now close at hand, I sure hope that someone in our local media (Herald, KGMI, Cascadia) will step up and bring some facts to light so that voters may make more informed decisions.

Updated 10/21/11 – In response to a couple of comments suggesting that this post is based on rumor, I added the following which is from the Birch Bay candidate forum.  As you read the exchange ask yourself how you might respond to a similar question and how Steve Oliver responded.  I think for most of us the answer would be something like no or heck no!

Question from audience:

“Mr. Oliver, yesterday I attended a forum in Bellingham, where Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen was asked if he was aware of a personnel situation in the Treasurer’s office.  The County Executive confirmed that there was a very serious matter, a very serious situation.

Now it is appropriate to ask you directly, did you or did you not in your term as County Treasurer engage in a relationship with a female employee of the County Treasurer’s office that involved any form of affection, physical contact, sexual contact, or any other inappropriate conduct? Yes or No.

Furthermore, please explain to this audience how you as an elected official, how this kind of behavior would affect your job, the ability to conduct the duties of the Treasurer’s office.”

Response from Steve Oliver

“Well, I wasn’t at the forum the other day, but, you know, what, what I would say is that, you know, there has been no complaint, there’s no grievance, been no lawsuit, there’s been no threat of a lawsuit, there’s been no liability, and there was due diligence performed to substantiate that issue completely. I, all I can say is, I love my wife, I love my kids, and I’m not going to do anything that’s going to hurt them, end of story.”


Updated10/23/11 – Glad to see that the Herald has posted an article on this situation, although for me most of the articles content brought up even more questions.

Treasurer Steve Oliver said he has not been involved in any inappropriate or sexual relationship with any of his employees,

…his denial wasn’t worded strongly enough to squash the rumor.

So why did he dance around the question at the forum instead of answering it out right, Yes or No as he was asked?   “No” is a pretty strong word and he was offered the chance to use that word yet he didn’t.  Was he caught off guard?  Was he channeling Bill Clinton?

Now, I have to go back to work on my State of the Union speech. And I worked on it until pretty late last night. But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you

And what about this?

The rumor stems, Oliver said, from a person not employed by the county who had come into County Executive Pete Kremen’s office in spring 2010 with allegations of an inappropriate relationship between Oliver and one of his employees.

Who was the person not employed by the county and what was the allegation?

Was any part of the allegation true?

What was their relationship to those involved?

Did the Herald start their investigation before these issues were raised publicly?  If so why?

As I think I said before, rumors abound, did the Herald ask for other records to address or lay to rest other rumors?

Some Youtube footage available at the Whatcom Excavator brings even more questions

I could go on, but suffice to say that something did occur at the Treasurers Office.  And regardless of what that something was, the something was squelched by Pete Kremen and Steve Oliver to the extent that it took an election race to flush them out.

I won’t be voting for either of these men and I suggest that you don’t either.