By David Anderson, Tillicum
Lakewood City Manager Andrew Neiditz writes in his column in “Connections” – the Fall, 2012 Newsletter and Recreation Guide just delivered to mailboxes throughout the city – that “integrity stand(s) for telling the truth (and) reminds us of the commitment we have to each other to hold us all to a very high ethical standard.”
Neiditz illustrates as follows: “In a recent and very unfortunate case where one of our police officers was arrested by federal authorities and charged with serious crimes, I was able to feel pride in the integrity of our police department because it was our own internal effort that brought the case to light.”
Good word, integrity. Stephen L. Carter, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of law at Yale University, has a book by that title. Carter is persuaded that “nothing but an all-out effort to demand integrity of our political leaders will preserve democracy.”
Integrity however can describe certain models of cars, windows and doors manufacturers, and it’s even the name of an organization working to include LGBT people in all the sacraments of the church.
Integrity, Carter points out, actually “comes from the same Latin root as integer (conveying) the sense of wholeness, undivided, completeness”.
In other words, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
OK, then if in fact it was the “integrity of (the Lakewood) police department’s (LPD) own internal effort that brought the case to light” why then does the LPD refer “all further questions or inquiries to the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office or the Tacoma Police Department”?
“The case” to which Neiditz refers – and which the LPD defers – in this case concerns former LPD officer Skeeter Manos, arrested, again, this time charged with identity theft and forgery for allegedly stealing an accountant’s identity to try and cover up his original crimes of stealing money from a charitable fund and embezzling cash from a fellow officers’ account – the Lakewood Police Independent Guild (LPIG) – for which he was treasurer.
But the former President of LPIG, Brian Wurts, was charged by his replacement Eric Bell as having – along with Manos – repeatedly “thwarted” requests to review guild accounts. And furthermore the TNT reported in the same article that Wurts also – as part of the FBI investigation of Manos – was under scrutiny by the federal agency for possible complicity for which Wurts resigned his position as LPIG President and was placed on administrative leave.
That was mid-February. It is now mid-September.
So where’s Wurts?
Was Wurts’ involvement plea-bargained away along with Manos’ confession of having taken the guild’s money?
Does the public’s right to know – citizens who pay taxes to pay police officer’s salaries – trump government’s tendency not to divulge information?
Walter Neary, who served on the Lakewood City Council from 2004 through 2011 and is a board member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, recently answered that question with a different scenario. Neary wrote, “the state Supreme Court had to weigh in recently on a case involving an accident victim demanding traffic records in Seattle. The state tried to claim the records were part of a federally protected database, but thankfully the justices recognized that an open government is . . . well, open.”
As Michael Keelin wrote in the Lakewood Patch on this matter, “Full accountability and disclosure should be made available. I cannot believe that a fund which is a charitable account would not have more checks and balances. Mr. Manos acted alone without any oversight?”
And a commenter in the TNT even poignantly suggested that “until the true and detailed facts regarding parties involved are released this incident will continue to dishonor those who died and their families.”
Or in other words, until integrity is demonstrated.