OPINION — DAN GOOKIN: Come on, Clerk Brannon: This isn’t transparency

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Clerk Jim Brannon’s recent episode of a ballot recount came as a surprise to everyone. Mr. Brannon insisted that he was being transparent, but his comments in The Press last week cast more shadows than shed any light.

I ran against Mr. Brannon last fall for the position of County Clerk. I have no regrets, other than I’ve looked deep into this position and still believe that the person occupying it falls dreadfully short of any form of competency. Still, the electorate has spoken (after two months to a final, accurate degree), and I accept the results.

My thoughts on this topic wandered back to former County Clerk Cliff Hayes. I wondered how he would have handled a similar incident?

First, I believe Cliff would have issued a press release prior to the recount. In the press release, he would have disclosed (this is full transparency, Jim) the nature of the recount:

“On such-and-such a day, the Clerk’s office was alerted to a ballot discrepancy. An alert citizen/poll worker/staffer informed me that potential error may have occurred. Apparently absentee ballots/in person voting was drawn into question on such-and-such a date due to this/that issue.

“To be certain of the election results, this office has ordered a recount of the early voting ballots. This recount will be held on Jan. 2. Interested members of the public are urged to attend.”

As far as I know, the Clerk’s office under Jim Brannon issued no such press release. Instead, a concerned insider contacted me regarding the pending recount. I emailed Mike Patrick and suggested that the event might be something newsworthy. It was.

In the article Thursday (Jan. 3), “Recounting a Mystery,” Brannon’s comments came off as evasive. They raised more questions than they answered: What specific event prompted the recount? Why was it necessary if the results weren’t going to change the outcome? And, most importantly, when was the discrepancy discovered?

In Friday’s follow-up (Jan. 4), “Audit Uncovers Missing Ballots,” Brannon again comes off as evasive and dismissing of any concerns. He fails to answer what motivated the recount. He claims responsibility for the election’s accuracy, but doesn’t own up to the two months it took him to ensure that accuracy.

The coincidental dismissal of longtime elections supervisor Carrie Phillips adds more mystery to this non-transparent event. Brannon repeats that her termination had little to do with the recount, but the timing is curious.

Had Mr. Brannon an iota of an inkling of a notion of what transparency really meant, this episode would be a non-issue. Actually, it is a non-issue because nothing changed, other than our own County Clerk fails to grasp the concept of transparency and further has cast doubt on his abilities to run a timely, accurate election.

For the voters to have faith in the election process, it would be best if the county’s chief elections officer instilled confidence, provided a modicum of honesty, and fully understood what it means to be transparent. Please, Mr. Brannon, come clean on this event.

• • •

Dan Gookin is a Coeur d’Alene resident. He also serves as a member of the Coeur d’Alene City Council.

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