Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Brown Invalidation Moving Forward

The controversy surrounding Josh Brown’s official residence may be settled as soon as Feb. 5 — but maybe not. Visiting judge, Craddock D. Verser of Jefferson County, has set that date to hear CK resident Robert Ross’ lawsuit alleging Brown intentionally lied about his official residency and is not a resident of the district he was elected from, nor has he ever lived in the Perry Avenue apartment he listed as his residence on his declaration of candidacy.

This is getting interesting because it was obvious to everyone in the courtroom that no one on Brown's side — and especially Brown — expected that result. To them, this was a slam-dunk political issue that would be quickly dispatched.

According to a number of courtroom observers, Brown was obviously stunned, physically reacting to the judge’s ruling. “The judge sure wiped that smug look off his face in a hurry,” chuckled one observer, while another stated that Brown looked “positively ashen” when the ruling was handed down. Brown has a lot on the line here. Besides possibly losing his job, he has reportedly purchased a home and new car not the best spot to be in for someone who could find himself both unemployed and possibly facing criminal charges within the next 45 days or so.

Meanwhile, someone else said that Auditor Karen Flynn looked, “panic stricken," and that Brown's attorney, former Democratic Party chair John Morgan, was, "trying to think on his feet after being cut up by Judge Verser."

When I reached Brown to ask for a comment for the Business Journal afterwards, he demonstrated his high level of maturity by simply hanging up. Mentioning this to his attorney, who was my next call, he replied, "Hey, he's 25-years old. What do you expect?"

What I expect, is for my county commissioner to be polite, demonstrate that he is mature enough to deal with the press under adverse circumstances, accept my call and answer my questions. That's what I expect.

What Josh, and seemingly those advising him don't get, is that this isn't about politics. It's about honesty and integrity. Brown needs to stop hiding behind whiny politics and legalities, and just come out and face the voters who trusted him with honest answers to the three simple questions we have continually posed to him.

• Does he or does he not live at the address he gave on his Declaration of Candidacy? This is a simple yes or no question.

• If not, even if we forget that knowingly giving a false address is a crime, where exactly is it that he does live?

• If he doesn't live at the address he gave, is wherever it is he does live in the district he was elected from or not?

Morgan says that when the case comes to court on Feb. 5, he believes Brown will be vindicated. “I am confident we will prevail at the evidentiary hearing. I’ll be set to go with guns blazing when they present their evidence.”

I suggested to him that Josh could have put all this behind him on the day the suit was filed, by calling a press conference and inviting reporters in for coffee at his apartment on Perry Avenue. That would have been a common-sense solution that would have also negated the entire issue and elevated Josh's stature as an honest politician.

This begs the questions:
• Was Josh in a position to do that?

• What would we have found had Josh done that? An empty apartment perhaps?

A second challenge to Brown’s residency was also filed by Capt. James M. Olsen of Bainbridge Island on Jan. 9. Olson’s action, which can be filed by any registered voter in the county, challenges Brown’s eligibility to vote in the upcoming Feb. 6 election, based on his residency.

According to Olsen’s complaint, Brown resides with his parents in Silverdale — in Commissioner District 1 — Commission Chair Chris Endresen’s district, not in the district he was elected from.

Olsen says it isn’t his intention to drive Brown from office, but says he takes issue with what he termed “perjury and misrepresentation.” He also said he is not acting in concert with Ross.

That matter will be heard by the Kitsap County Canvassing Board, which consists of Endresen, County Prosecutor Russ Hague, and Flynn. All three are Democrats, as is Brown and his attorney. Endresen, Hague and Flynn all contributed money to Brown’s election campaign. In fact, Flynn contributed twice.

Endresen and Hague both have stated they will recuse themselves from the Canvassing Board, and will each appoint a representative to take their places. Flynn has made no public statement on the issue as of yet. According to the Auditor’s office, Olsen’s complaint must be heard prior to the Feb. 24 certification of the Feb. 6 election.

Endresen has been quoted as saying she views Olsen’s action as, “harassment from sore losers.” Olsen has refused to engage in a war of words, saying, only that the truth will become obvious when he presents his evidence.

Like I said, this is getting real interesting. Stay tuned.

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