When Tacoma City Council candidate Janis Clark spoke to The News Tribune Editorial Board earlier this month, she made a good case for why she, a former captain with the U.S. Army Reserves who also served on active duty at JBLM, should represent District 5 on the council.
We gave Clark a primary-election endorsement, along with Tacoma Planning Commission chairman Chris Beale, because we thought Clark offered voters a distinct alternative. But information has come to light in recent days that compels us to withdraw that endorsement.
While Clark’s record as an advocate for veterans and the down-and-out might lead voters to give her a second look, especially in a relatively weak field of candidates, we believe the public deserves more information before considering her – certainly more than Clark is eager to provide.
This is not the first time she has appeared in News Tribune pages, though it’s only recently that we’ve seen her under the name Clark. We didn’t make the connection between her different names until it was brought to our attention Friday.
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As Janis Gall-Martin, she unsuccessfully ran for City Council and for the state Legislature in 2002; she was a finalist for the Metro Parks Board in 2004.
In 2004, Gall-Martin was also charged in Pierce County Superior Court with numerous counts of theft, money laundering and identity theft. After a six-week trial, the jury acquitted her on some of the theft counts, while mistrials were declared on all the others. Prosecutors chose not to re-try her.
In 2005, Gall-Martin was convicted of cocaine use in an Army court-martial; that same year, she finally broke through in her political hopes when elected to the Pierce County Charter Review Commission.
However, after county officials learned about the Army felony conviction, Gall-Martin was asked to step down; it also resulted in suspension of her voter registration.
Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson told a TNT reporter this week that Gall-Martin’s voter eligibility was restored in 2008.
In 2010 and again in 2012, Gall-Martin made unsuccessful bids for state Legislature in two different Tacoma districts, both under a new name: Janis Gbalah.
Then she won a seat on last year’s County Charter Review Commission – this time as Janis Clark.
This week, when a TNT reporter made inquiries about the name changes and the status of her military discharge, Clark hung up.
We wanted to give Clark an opportunity to explain her past entanglements in civilian and military courts, and to defend the endorsement we gave her. But she has not responded to our subsequent phone calls, emails or social media requests.
Primary ballots went out in the mail last Friday, so we can wait no longer.
The issue here isn’t so much a criminal past. The Rev. Gregory Christopher, running for another seat on the council, was convicted of robbery. But he’s been open about his past, and his redemption story is part of his appeal.
Clark’s omissions do a disservice to voters. Her resume may be stamped with good deeds and civic engagement, but hiding her past and refusing to talk about it leaves us no choice but to withdraw our recommendation.
A dubious candidate by any name is still a dubious candidate. Voters beware.
Four other candidates are trying to advance to a general election runoff in District 5. The frontrunner is Beale, a 15-year Tacoma resident with a keen eye for safe streets, urban trails and sustainable growth. Regretfully, we recommend Beale alone for the seat being vacated by Joe Lonergan.