County Clerk Candidate Fired Over Alleged Illegal Background Checks Made Against Opponents

Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Sarah Matheny
Sarah Matheny

Officials of Yakima, Washington reportedly asked the Washington Attorney General’s Office to investigate allegations that Municipal Court Clerk Sarah Matheny, a candidate for the elected office of Yakima County Clerk, had abused her authority to access records using her workstation attached to government databases in an effort to provide her with potentially damaging information of all other candidates in the election.

Reportedly Sarah had been previously disciplined for performing an illegal inquiry using the Washington State ACCESS telecommunication system to query Department of Licensing records on an opponent but at another point had used other systems to perform backgrounds on the other candidates, including alleged illegal use of the judicial records database.

Her opponents in that race were Janelle Riddle, Kathleen Carter, Jose Trevino and Steve Driscoll and were reportedly the subjects of her “investigation.”

According to Yakima City Manager Tony O’Rourke in a statement he is asking the Attorney General to investigate if other avenues were used by Sarah outside of the city’s record access system to gather information on political opponents and if such actions constituted a crime.

The background checks alleged were outside the scope permitted the general public in public disclosure requests. Information such as driver license records is statutorily prohibited from public disclosure as well as some information available in the court system. The city manager also believes the Primary Election might have been affected by the release of this information.
He further claimed a state investigation revealed that Sarah accessed information on her opponents in the state judicial services database more than 200 times over a period of several months.

“We’re going to have to ensure the sanctity and security of the electoral process,” Tony said. “We think it warrants an investigation by the state attorney general.”

The city terminated Sarah’s employment after a disciplinary hearing and she referred all inquiries to her attorney.

Sarah’s attorney contested the city’s actions pointing to the fact she had been disciplined in July for the incident involving Candidate Steve Driscoll’s driver record. She reportedly received the loss of one week’s vacation for this violation. Her attorney claims the subsequent firing was unfair because his client had already been disciplined over the matter.

The Yakima Herald reported:

“They were given the opportunity to step back and realize that they were going in the wrong direction and let her continue her job, and they failed to do that,” Pickett said in a Monday telephone interview. “The city of Yakima was given every opportunity.”

O’Rouke said a state investigation revealed that Matheny had accessed information on her opponents in the state judicial services database more than 200 times over a period of several months.

Pickett dismissed the city’s request to have the state attorney general look into the matter.

“I take it as the threat of a bully, and it’s utterly improper,” he said. “And the city knows that it is improper, period. And Ms. Matheny is not going to be bullied.”

Despite her firing, Matheny “is still campaigning,” Pickett said. She faces Riddle, a former deputy Yakima County clerk, in the November general election.

“She’s moving forward and is devoting 100 percent to her campaign,” he said.

One has to wonder how Sarah would even be considered by the electorate having by her own admission illegally accessed private information for purposes beneficial her politically. The office of County Clerk in Washington administrates the keeping of court documents and in addition other records filed with the county.

It could be asked whether her approach would be used against the residents of Yakima County whenever it suits her interests personally and if that information could be used against whomever she chooses.

By Darren Smith

Sources:

Yakima Herald
Sarah Matheny for Yakima County Clerk

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

24 thoughts on “County Clerk Candidate Fired Over Alleged Illegal Background Checks Made Against Opponents”

  1. DS, thank you.

    I wonder if is possible to automate the retrieval procedure. Then you wouldn’t be bothered quite so much with the mundane.

  2. It seems that there is an attempt to punish her three times for the same set of infractions. First was the loss of vacation, the second time was being fired, now, the third time, they want her to face a criminal charge. That’s not fair to the employee. On the first go-round they should have had a complete investigation and, most likely, fired her and possibly recommended the criminal investigation.

    She clearly isn’t ethically qualified for the position.

  3. Shaking, Millionaire politicians, and politicians who become millionaires are a core problem. Obama becoming President was an eloquent man found the perfect timing. He snookered me in 2008. I also think people were looking for an alternative to Hillary. In their hearts, even her supporters know she’s evil. I see not only Scott Walker but it looks like the Chris Christie political witch hunt is failing.

  4. Wow Karen, I was being FACETIOUS. I was responding to John’s outrageous comment. You seriously think I want us to be like China??

  5. “We must endeavor to become more like China.”

    Do you mean like how the Chinese government shut down an independent film festival because it was not sufficiently pro-government? There’s the thought police for ya!

    Or the murder of students at Tieneman Square for demonstrating for freedom?

    Or the fact that they have the worst reputation in the world for manufacturing products contaminated with toxic chemicals?

    Human rights abuses?

    Toxic air?

    Toxic waterways?

    Complete lack of rights for its citizenry?

    What is it you admire about China – it’s mandatory group think?

    I like its films, and can only imagine what marvels they could produce if they were allowed creative freedom.

  6. lol annie if only!!! im quite sure the game of po lie tricks(politics) would change back to for the people of the people. im still researching trying to find out how so many uber illionaires ended up in all the high offices and how one little known senator from chicago ended up in the devil house as i call it now

  7. From the Constitution to city codes, corruption and abuse of the “public trust” must be capital crimes. The singular, historical American failure, and excellent example, has been the SCOTUS, which has not objectively upheld and supported the literal words and clear intent of the Founders and founding documents and, instead, has followed the party dogma of individual justices. The SCOTUS has the simple and important duty of assuring that actions comport with law. The SCOTUS has chosen, in contrast, to arbitrarily and politically “interpret” the law and “legislate from the bench.”

    In China, that type of behavior is definitively precluded; below:

    U.S. News and World Report – June 10, 2013

    “But other corrupt Chinese officials have not been the beneficiaries of state mercy. In 2011, the vice mayors of the picturesque cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou were found guilty of accepting almost $50 million in bribes and paid the ultimate price for their crimes. Likewise, in 2010, the director of the Chongqing Justice Bureau was executed for accepting bribes and supporting organized crime. The same fate befell China’s State Food and Drug Administration chief in 2007.”

    “China-watchers are waiting to see what will happen to former party strongman Bo Xilai. Bo was slated to become one of the seven top officials in China until a litany of shocking charges, ranging from massive corruption to murder, ended his political career in 2012. Only time will tell if he will meet a similar fate to other corrupt Chinese officials.”

  8. Learn how to read Nick. She’s a habitual offender of breaching the public trust. That may be ok for you but for some of us, we want those people never in office and dump the ones in… It’s for personal gain….

  9. Does it really matter she clearly abused her job and used state database records…. Glad she got fired…. People who infringe on others private lives misusing state equipment should not only be fired but charge with theft, fraud and larceny. Once convicted placed on her credit file so she can get use to the gander…. Fraud convictions prevent many typa of employment….

  10. I am so glad they are investigating. Whatever the rules are, they should apply to everyone, even government employees. And how refreshing – they fired someone for abusing her authority and then referring all questions to her lawyer. Now, why can’t they do that with Lois Lerner?

    Was she not a union member? Because that’s typically why government employees cannot be fired.

  11. I have learned over decades of investigating people one of the primary answers as to why people do what they do is, “Because they can.”

  12. Darren, It sounds like Washington is not very progressive regarding open records. Professional Licensing info and court records should be open records.

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