Opinion

Pam Roach’s petty tough-gal act backfires big

From the Editorial Board

Pierce County Councilwoman Pam Roach is sworn in to office in January by her son, Councilman Dan Roach. Almost immediately, Pam Roach fell under scrutiny for her treatment of county staff.
Pierce County Councilwoman Pam Roach is sworn in to office in January by her son, Councilman Dan Roach. Almost immediately, Pam Roach fell under scrutiny for her treatment of county staff. Courtesy photo

In this digital age, the tendency of some people to let their worst impulses slip the leash and run wild in the gutters of social media doesn’t stop once they’re elected. And if you think this tendency is limited to the current occupant of the White House, you’d be sadly mistaken.

On the local scene, it’s no surprise the public official who recently turned to Twitter to deliver a cheap shot is Pierce County Councilwoman Pam Roach, R-Sumner.

The target of Roach’s low blow? County Executive Bruce Dammeier, her fellow Republican veteran of the Olympia political wars who, like Roach, is serving his first year as a county leader.

“Dammeier. He likes his women weak,” Roach tweet-taunted on Aug. 31, in a six-word spray of spittle-flecked bile.

For most anyone else, a foolish Twitter post after 10 p.m. might be dismissed as a misjudgment fueled by insomnia or indigestion. But for Roach, it was a typical fusillade of inexcusable rhetoric masquerading as “I am woman, hear me roar” political pluck.

In the process, Roach smeared Dammeier’s wife, female staff and other women who didn’t deserve it.

Dammeier didn’t dignify it with a response; he knows better than to get drawn into the fray, ala Ted Cruz, the 2016 GOP presidential candidate who famously thundered “Leave Heidi the hell alone!” after frontrunner Donald Trump insulted Cruz’s wife on Twitter.

Many, however, have condemned Roach (without naming her), including state Rep. JT Wilcox, R-Yelm. On Facebook, he called the tweet “deeply insulting to the women in (Dammeier’s) family. Not only is that despicable, but to say they are weak, which is what was implied, is laughable to anyone who knows them.”

The District 2 councilwoman posted her tweet the day after Dammeier’s office sent a memo to county department heads and staff restricting their contact with Roach. The memo cited a pattern of “rude and unprofessional behavior” by Roach toward staff and directed them to put all communication with her in writing.

Roach quickly went on the offensive. In calls to News Tribune reporters and editors, she claimed Dammeier had it in for her after she recently “kicked him out of my office.” Roach has seethed over perceived separation-of-powers trespasses by the executive; namely, he put out feelers about potentially annexing part of Roach’s district into Tacoma, and he hasn’t supported the funding Roach wants for a county agriculture commission.

What Roach conveniently ignores — as she did during her 26-year legislative career — are the underlying complaints against her: that she treats people poorly and poses a hostile-workplace nightmare for taxpayers.

We commend Dammeier for working scrupulously over several months to respond to the bad behavior Roach was already flashing in her first month on council — conduct we criticized in a Jan. 26 editorial headlined: “Don’t allow Pam Roach to keep up abusive habits.”

“As a fellow Republican and former colleague in the Legislature,” we wrote, “(Dammeier) should call on whatever influence he has with Roach. We trust he is.”

In retrospect, we might’ve overestimated Dammeier’s leverage, or underestimated Roach’s resistance to behind-the-scenes diplomatic overtures.

Is it possible we’re also overestimating the importance of a late-night social-media spasm by a notoriously petty politician? A tweet that was “liked” by all of three people?

Perhaps. But the tweet (and the fact Roach hasn’t taken it down) provide more evidence (if there weren’t enough already) that she will disrespect anyone — from low-level staffer to high-ranking member of her own party — who doesn’t meet her standards or genuflect to her experience.

Other Republicans on the County Council would do well to distance themselves from Roach. Even more important, District 2 voters should give her an earful and remember this incident if she runs again. Voters are the only people whose judgment she’s ever had to respect.

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