Macdonald resigns from Solid Waste Advisory Committee, citing accountability, land purchases, 'errors in judgment'

Mike Macdonald resigned May 4 from the San Juan County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, citing a failure to "provide honest public accountability at every level," "unnecessary land purchases," and "serious errors in judgment" which have led to a worsening situation for trash collection.

Macdonald submitted the following letter to County Council Chairman Richard Fralick and Solid Waste Advisory Committee Chairman Sam Jacobson:

* * *

After reviewing the past ten years of solid waste management in San Juan County, I resign from the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, rather than continue proven futility.

It is clear to me that in another jurisdiction, the senior Public Works staff, not the workers who get their hands dirty, would have failed any objective performance review and been terminated for cause. Some specific actions, the destruction of the tipping shed on town property, and details of the Beaverton Valley property purchase, should have led to examinations of possible unlawful activity contrary to the taxpayer’s interests and benefit. We have failed to provide honest public accountability at every level.

Millions have been spent on unnecessary land purchases. More than half a million has been spent on administration and manipulation by consultant. Much is unrecoverable. Because of serious errors in judgment and process, the trash collection situation is now worse than a decade ago, and is growing ever more grim. Many believe all Ecology violations and lack of maintenance could have been remedied for less than has been spent on consultants and biased reports.

San Juan County government’s reaction, put shortly, has been cover up and refusal to independently assess the evidence, instead relying on the staff’s self-assessment and false reassurances. In reviewing many hours of tape and transcripts, I find the staff’s explanations and justifications unconvincing and often incomprehensible. Their accounting system seems designed to obscure true costs. Their goals appear to place the interests of Public Works employees over all other county employees, and certainly over the citizens. The system is broken because we let them break it.

Public Works consistently and currently violates goals one through four of the county Solid Waste Management Plan, and priorities of the state RCW 70.95 — while service declines and management costs skyrocket. The administration and its apologists have to date successfully prevented any clear accounting or public discussion of these failings.

My conclusion is that this dysfunctional system, for which we all share some responsibility, cannot be repaired. It will take a decisive and transformative vote of the people, fueled by rising anger at incompetence and dissembling. The closer one examines the details of the entire solid waste structure, the worse it appears. Ecology’s order to shut down the San Juan transfer station will impact the entire county.

Now, given the record of these principals, requesting a property tax increase from the citizens, to continue funding without change or accountability what has dismally failed, would be both illogical and unethical. I decline any further participation in the process, except to resist its present form and call for structural reform based on civic integrity.

Mike Macdonald
San Juan Island

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