The people of Pierce County deserve a credible and respected prosecuting attorney. Today, that is not the case.
Mark Lindquist, the prosecutor since 2009, has managed to squander a once-promising career in public service. His unwillingness to accept responsibility for a dysfunctional office telegraphs his leadership style — and his values.
Lindquist’s pattern of missteps and abuses has triggered investigations by the Washington State Bar Association and the county ethics commission. Two whistleblower complaints throw light on a politicized office, a culture of vindictiveness, and prosecutorial offenses that undermine the public interest.
The web of accusations, which date to 2010, has been expertly untangled by The Tacoma News Tribune and reporter Sean Robinson. The professional, investigative focus of the paper’s coverage might help explain Lindquist’s Nixon-like disdain for the media.
More than half of state cases overturned for prosecutorial misconduct since 2012 flowed from Lindquist’s office. They involved the worst kinds of major crimes, from assault to murder.
An independent workplace investigation overseen by attorney Mark Busto documents an image-burnishing boss with a penchant for retaliation. Busto spotlights one specific conflict of interest so egregious it’s likely to sandbag the prosecutor: The firm of his pro bono legal counsel, Stewart Estes, who assisted on a futile cellphone/public records case, has earned $587,000 from the county. The four-year period that the firm has benefitted corresponds to the time Estes has provided free legal advice to Lindquist. But Lindquist denies any quid pro quo.
The animated death spiral of a politician, for all its predictable drama, diverts attention from the broader calling of duty and public service. Lindquist is the county’s most powerful local official. He has the power to prosecute. Unlike other elected officials, such as the county executive and members of the County Council, Lindquist administers justice — at least in theory.
The citizens of Washington’s second-largest county are entitled to a prosecutor with the gravitas and integrity of King County’s Dan Satterberg and Snohomish County’s Mark Roe. That won’t be possible until Lindquist moves on.
The public interest needs to come first.