In a recent Thurston County Board of Health Meeting, the bureaucrats have decided to conceal information from the elected officials. The Thurston County Health Department has been troubled for years, and the staff infection means the public can no longer trust them.


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In a crisis, some bureaucracies and bureaucrats demonstrate why they need to be removed or replaced.  Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I want to believe that honest people have the ability to rise to leadership roles in bureaucracies.  My hopes of discovering honesty in bureaucracy are regularly dashed by reality.  Still, I keep trying. In Washington State, the Thurston County Health Department clearly provides a very relevant and current example.   

Here is the most recent Thurston County Commissioner/Board of Health agenda setting meeting from Tuesday, and while it is long-winded, rambling, and a bit boring, there are critical issues exposed about the bureaucratic cultural attitude and how this sabotages rational policy making processes, even at a local level:

Thurston County’s Commissioners are also Thurston County’s elected Board of Health – Agenda setting meeting, Tuesday April 7, 2020

For the first time in many decades, the entire nation is experiencing an honest-to-goodness pandemic-level challenge.  Thurston County is in the middle of this drama too.  Sure, the impact is far less than the scary models presented to us a few weeks ago. At least this isn’t the usual “100-years from now, the earth will warm one degree and you will all experience global warming and die” hyperbole.  People are actually dying in America from the Wuhan/Corona Virus.  Not in 100 years, but right now.

Okay, yes, according to information reluctantly released on Friday, it looks like Thurston County had 80 tested and proven cases of the virus to date.  Fortunately, 58 people have recovered.  A little over a dozen people have been hospitalized, and one person died last Saturday (over 80years old, with unspecified “underlying health conditions”).  So far. (See the State Dept. of Health stats linked here by county) Right now, the odds of a Thurston County resident becoming a victim of one of the criminals the county or state released early from prison are higher than dying from this virus.   I’m sure those numbers will grow.  We had 6,800+ people in the county file for unemployment last week, and I’m sure those numbers will grow too. 

However, at least these elected public health officials know what is going on, right?  The health department bureaucrats are keeping the elected officials (who are the designated health officers for the county) informed, I’m sure.  For many decades, the public health department has been preparing for a public health emergency and their plans are all ready to go, right?

Unfortunately, this assumption isn’t accurate.  In last Tuesday’s Thurston County Commissioner meeting, the Commissioners (who are the elected Board of Health) wanted to have more data on the vulnerable communities in Thurston County.  How many beds were being used in the hospital?  Did they really need more money and county tax dollars deployed for tents, cots, hotel quarantine rooms, emergency supplies?  The Health Department has been asking for a lot more resources (plus requested bonus “hazard pay”).  However, despite the fact that every single medical facility in the county reports on a regular (daily) basis all the data about ICU and hospital bed inventory, the head of Thurston County’s health Department still would not provide requested information to the elected officials who are theoretically mobilizing the county resources to deal with an emergency (see from 17:40 – 45:00 of the above video). 

Thurston County Commissioner Gary Edwards

Staff were not surprised with these questions.  Seriously, what the heck are they doing right now that takes priority over tracking this pandemic data?  Apparently, Commissioner Gary Edwards had been asking for this information repeatedly, and staff has decided elected officials don’t need to know.  Staff explicitly is censoring the data they provide to the elected officials, in the middle of a crisis. This exposes the heart of the bureaucratic cultural rot.    The residents of Thurston County are fortunate to have an elected official like Gary Edwards willing to ask these questions and challenge staff – most elected officials have been conditioned to blindly follow staff, convert their spines to spaghetti, and not think for themselves.  We need more elected officials willing to ask tough questions and confront this staff infection. 

Thurston county staff regularly demonstrate why they can’t be trusted

This is the EXACT same health department which has been confronted by this author and others in the past for falsifying data, cherry picking information, and lavishly funding studies to justify the “crap tax” on septic systems over the past few years.  Despite the fact that they have been repeatedly confronted (and forced to admit) that the “14% failure rate” for septic systems was a fraudulent study, faked by Thurston County health department staff.  This fake “study” was used to create a phony and false narrative for the State of Washington to justify massive unneeded regulatory taxes, fees, and increasing bureaucratic bloat.  Staff still pretend to  prioritize “science,” “math,” and “public health.” The staff care about none of those things if the truth revealed does not fit staff’s pre-determined agenda.

The primary wastewater treatment facility in Thurston County is LOTT (Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater Treatment), which has accidently dumped millions of gallons of raw sewage into Budd Bay in the recent past, and always gets a bureaucratic gold star plus millions of dollars.

This is the same local government agency that refuses to confront the local wastewater treatment monopoly (named LOTT) when they dump millions of gallons of raw sewage into Puget Sound in Olympia.  This is the same group of bureaucrats who look the other way as extensive homeless/drug addict camps dump raw human waste, drug needles, and other toxic surprises into salmon streams just a few miles from their office.  Staff actively ignores real pollution and health challenges in Thurston County, while they spend vast sums of taxpayer dollars and staff time to invent and justify techniques to punish and tax rural property owners for rural living.  This bizarre obsession by this agency while willfully ignoring real pollution problems is well known by local government watchers.

What’s upstream in Olympia? Homeless addicts dump trash into salmon stream in City of Olympia – the Thurston County Health Department ignores (Photo 1/15/2019 – Percival Creek)

On top of this, this department has been caught falsifying water quality studies in the Scatter Creek Watershed (since at least the late 1990s) and repeatedly attempting to fake, falsify or just lie about well water quality and watershed studies in the Scatter Creek Watershed.  It is a reflexive habit for health department staff to falsify or cherry-pick water quality studies, septic system analysis, or any other action they have taken in the last 20 years in south Thurston County.  In North Thurston County they refused to allow DNA tests on fecal coliform samples on Woodland Creek because the results would have disproven their claims that septic systems were the cause (and therefore they forced a massive, costly sewer expansion in that neighborhood). 

The Thurston County Commissioners are also the County Board of Health

I recognize it is standard practice to fake reports, falsify studies, and ignore real sources of pollution in Thurston County.  This is just how the staff infection spreads.  However, there was an underlying presumption (naïve on my part) when a real health emergency comes along, they will be at least marginally functional and capable of providing basic information to the elected officials so semi-rational policy decisions are possible.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Incompetence and alternative agendas are woven into the cultural fabric of this bureaucracy. 

Budget cuts are coming to Thurston County.  They will be significant.  Regardless of how well the community has flattened the curve of the infection rate, the local economic climate has certainly been flatlined and crushed.  Cleaning house in the Thurston County Health Department is a good place to start with the cuts.  Firing all upper management (no senior manager appears salvageable) should be the first step.  They have been stress-tested, and they failed. What would happen if this had been a much more serious emergency, with death rates above 1 in 275,000 residents? If this legendary incompetence can’t be fixed, outsourcing key functions to real professionals will become a policy and budget necessity.  In a world of pandemics, we no longer have the financial luxury to tolerate useless, politicized, agenda-driven, and failed departments like this. 


Background articles and documents:

Thurston County discovers new cash cow in the “Crap” tax

Thurston County Staff Create fraudulent data to justify tax increase

The day the “Crap Tax” died

Thurston County wants to force another illegal tax on rural residents

Silence of the Enviros – Ignoring real pollution in Olympia’s Greenspaces

The top 6 Games Government bureaucrats play when faced with budget cuts – the video

The Top 6 Games Government bureaucrats play when faced with budget cuts

State Budget Cuts are Coming – the Video

Time to Downsize State Government

Many Counties delay property tax due date. This is only the beginning

Evergreen State College – the next Corona Virus Quarantine Facility?

City of Olympia Proudly Showcases beautiful addict/homeless camps – now THIS is real progress

Thurston County abandons illegal courthouse tax ordinance, makes second attempt to pass the ordinance next week

How many laws did Thurston County break to push new courthouse scheme?

Thurston County demonstrates how NOT to build a jail

Thurston County spends $8 million and 18 years to make a $4 million empty building worth $2 million

Childish political leadership in Thurston County is costing taxpayers millions

Thurston County staff create fraudulent data to justify tax increase

A plague of Consequences


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