Poor Doug Lasher. The guy is like the Rodney Dangerfield of Clark County politics. He’s been the county’s treasurer since the Ice Age and he still gets no respect.
Case in point: Last week, county commissioners called Lasher to a board time meeting so he could explain why the treasurer’s office doesn’t expressly tell prospective buyers that some tax-foreclosed property sold at auction isn’t “buildable.” The commissioners want to do something about that, even though they don’t really have the authority to do so.
Lasher explained that, by law, the treasurer’s office is tasked with auctioning property if an owner is three years delinquent on his property tax payments. This way, the county can recoup its losses. The county provides all the necessary, mandated information upfront, Lasher said.
Also mentioned was the fact that Washington is what’s known as a “buyer beware” state, meaning that it’s up to the buyer to perform their own due diligence. The county’s own attorneys explained to the commissioners that it’s difficult to provide information that might be pertinent to every possible buyer because that would be an exercise in guesswork.
Lasher explained that his office provides enough detail, through title reports, about the problems affecting auctioned properties. Nothing is concealed, he said. Going above and beyond, and providing more information, would be akin to the county acting as a Realtor for land speculators, said John Payne, the county’s deputy treasurer.
That wasn’t good enough for the commissioners, leading to exchanges like these (which are edited for clarity):
Lasher: From our perspective, why should we use taxpayer money on something that someone will be speculating on?
Mielke: We are employees of the general public, and we need to provide a service.
Lasher: We’re talking about maybe 100 people who come in …
Mielke: I represent them, too.
Lasher: Yeah, yeah…
Mielke: Let me finish.
Oof, Mielke pulled out the Kanye West card. Lemme finish is never a good phrase to tumble out of a politician’s open maw. At least he held back and didn’t say, “Shut up, Doug!” I’m sure he wanted to, though. The tone and tenor of the conversation made me wonder whether he would have talked to other elected officials, such as Sheriff Garry Lucas or Auditor Greg Kimsey, in the same way. I suspect he wouldn’t have.
It became clear that the commissioners perceived a problem, and they expected Lasher to fix it. It’s important to note that Lasher is an elected official who is under no obligation to do anything the commissioners ask of him. Still, the hectoring continued.
After Mielke, ever the eloquent communicator, mumbled through a five-minute soliloquy about getting to “where we can agree to what we disclose — how much effort we put into it and that kind of thing. And so that’s where we were, and we’re asking you to be here and share something” the ball was passed back to Lasher.
After a short pause (to be expected, because it was unclear what Mielke was asking), Commissioner David Madore looked directly at Lasher and said, “Do you have an answer for that?”
Again, it was a tone I’d never before heard Madore take with another elected official. Payne, the deputy treasurer and the offices bad cop to Lasher’s good cop, intervened and said in a frank tone that anybody is entitled to look at a property’s title information and “that’s as far as I’d like to take it.”
But on and on the conversation went, with the commissioners telling the treasurer how to do his job. Poor Doug Lasher. It’s evident, the guy just isn’t provided with the same level of respect as the other county officials. To illustrate that point, here’s a photo of former Commissioner Steve Stuart, in big brother mode, helping Lasher with his tie.