PORT ANGELES — Bill Peach and Mike Doherty are two former political foes vying for District 3 Clallam County commissioner in the Nov. 6 general election.
The winner will coordinate a $39.9 million annual budget that funds 22 departments and the salaries of more than 400 employees.
Peach, the incumbent, and Doherty, a former county commissioner, sharply criticized each other at a candidate forum Friday — rather than lay out their plans for the future — just 12 days before ballots will be mailed to more than 14,300 District 3 voters, a third of whom live in Port Angeles precincts, and the rest from Port Angeles to Neah Bay.
Ballots will be mailed Oct. 17, three days after the Peninsula Daily News’ 2018 Voter Guide will be inserted in the Sunday, Oct. 14 edition.
Peach, the Republican incumbent, started out the 30-minute Nor’Wester Rotary Club of Port Angeles program at the Olympic Medical Center cafeteria with a jab.
He said Doherty, the former county commissioner who defeated Peach for the position in 2010, believes in the concept of a beneficent “elite” class of politicians.
Peach won the election for commissioner in 2014 after Doherty, of Port Angeles, declined to run for re-election after serving four terms.
“In looking at our management philosophies, I do have some insight about Mike’s approach,” Peach, a Forks resident, told 24 forum attendees.
“In summary, he honestly believes in the notion that the elite have a responsibility to care for the unwashed.”
Peach ended his presentation with another jab.
“Mike is very, very likely to take that superior ground,” he said.
“A lot of people are very happy they don’t have to put up with that.”
Peach touted his own collaborative relationship with commissioners Randy Johnson, who filed for election with no party preference, and Mark Ozias, a Democrat, ever since Doherty left the board.
“One thing that’s gone is fighting between commissioners, one in particular,” Peach said, waving his arm to the side in Doherty’s direction.
“The feedback from staff is that they see a very stable commission.”
Doherty, who is running on his previous record as a four-term commissioner, disputed Peach’s characterization.
Doherty said he collaborated as commissioner “a little differently” than Peach, whom he accused of going it alone more than Doherty did and would.
Doherty said he employed a successful collaborative style representing Clallam County among the state’s timber counties at the state level and participated with “a dozen different groups” representing rural counties.
As a member of the state Board of Natural Resources, Peach was the lone no vote when the board in November 2017 approved setting aside 620,000-624,000 acres of Western Washington forest land to protect a threatened seabird, the marbled murrelet.
Peach said at the time that he favored meeting the minimum requirements of the Endangered Species Act while allowing the most timber harvest.
Doherty said he takes into consideration more than “big timber,” contrasting himself with Peach, a former Rayonier timber company regional manager.
“I don’t take the short view,” Doherty said.
Noting in a later interview that the Rotary forum format does not allow for candidate rebuttals, Doherty disputed the picture of him that Peach drew.
“I think that was totally out of line,” Doherty said.
“It irks me that out of nowhere, he pulls that out.
“I would have asked him, who are these elites?
“It’s appalling to accuse me of only talking to elites and only working for those folks, whoever they are.
“I was open to average folks pretty much all the time.
“I think that’s a trait of Democrats.”
Peach also took Doherty to task for what Peach said was a lack of financial experience, chiding him for never working in private industry or figuring out a payroll.
“I’m blessed with a strong IQ,” Peach said, pointing to his two engineering degrees — civil engineering and forest engineering — and master of business administration degree.
Peach said as a commissioner he was able retrieve $300,000 that the county was owed in timber revenues from the state Department of Natural Resources.
“They had an overpayment that had to do with how they manage their timber sale program,” Peach said.
“As a result of that conversation, they changed their procedures.”
Doherty said that as a commissioner, he had a hand in creating a budget surplus in county government.
“I know finances,” Doherty said.
“If Bill knows finances, go to the Public Disclosure Commission.”
Doherty said he was referring to a loan that Peach made to his campaign that was not properly reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission.
“For someone so clever at finance,” Doherty said, “you’ve got to be responsible.”
Peninsula Daily News reported Aug. 5 that Peach did not report a $20,000 personal loan he made May 16 to his campaign until Aug. 3.
PDC regulations require campaigns to report cash contributions and loans within one week.
Peach told the PDN Aug. 5 that he did not realize the oversight until a June 17 PDN article on campaign funding that said he had not reported any contributions or expenditures.
As of the interview for that article, his campaign had not filed the reports.
Peach said his campaign manager, Sandy Schier of Forks, had had trouble filing reports via the PDC’s website for two months, calling it “an innocent mistake.”
PDC officials “appreciated the fact that I responded immediately” after the software problem came to light, Peach said.
“They changed their software and didn’t tell anyone.
“That’s the damn problem.”
PDC spokeswoman Kim Bradford said Friday she was contacted by email by Peach’s campaign Aug. 2 that reported problems with filing financial reports.
“It just said we are having trouble, here’s the error message, and your help would be greatly appreciated,” Bradford said.
“From the error message they sent us, it appears the version they were using was several versions out of date.”
Jim Lazar of Olympia and lawyer Craig Ritchie of Port Angeles have filed a PDC complaints about the late filing, Peach’a failure to file other expenditure reports and for him failing to provide proper detail on other expenditures, according to PDC records.
“Bookkeeping was using an outdated program and did not realize the reports where (sic) not processing,” Schier responded to the PDC.
“We have since updated the [PDC] program and filed August 3rd, 2018.”
Peach apologized to the PDC, according to PDC records.
He told the PDC he addressed another issue about newspaper ads that had failed to include his party affiliation.
Peach said Friday in an interview that he has addressed the issues that have been brought to the PDC’s attention, which has yet to decide on the complaints.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].