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By Roger Harnack
Franklin Connection 

No confidence in county administrator?

Johnson survives vote on being fired by commissioners


Last updated 2/23/2021 at 2:53pm

PASCO — Franklin County Administrator Keith Johnson narrowly survived what can only be called a vote of no confidence during a county commission meeting this morning, Tuesday, Feb. 23.

A clash over county administration resulted in Chairman Clint Didier moving to fire Johnson when commissioners returned to an open meeting after two executive sessions.

“I move that we terminate Mr. Johnson immediately as administrator and start the process of hiring an interim administrator as soon as possible,” Didier said.

“I could not disagree more with that motion,” Commissioner Lowell “Brad” Peck countered.

The motion died without a second, giving Johnson a reprieve from the unemployment line.

Peck came to Johnson’s defense, before Commissioner Rocky Mullen confirmed “problems” with county administration.

“He is an exceptional county administrator,” Peck said of Johnson. “His qualifications and his performance have been extremely good. We are exceedingly fortunate to have a person of Mr. Johnson’s qualifications.”

Mullen didn’t see it that way.

Instead, the new commissioner called for hiring a deputy administrator to shore up management.

“I see a lack of leadership in some areas of that office,” he said. “I don’t want to move too hastily, but I do see some problems.”

Mullen’s recommendation set off another round of intense discourse between Didier and Peck, with Didier calling on commissioners to exclusively conduct the hiring and Peck suggesting Johnson handle it.

“I think that would be improper,” Peck said of Didier’s motion. “Whomever it is should have Keith’s blessing.”

Peck moved to give Johnson hiring authority and Didier moved to amend it to give commissioners complete autonomy in the process.

By a 1-1 vote, both Didier’s and Peck’s efforts failed as Mullen declined to take a side.

“If we don’t trust our county administrator to make a hiring decision for his deputy, with our input, that’s concerning,” Peck said, adding that sends a “pretty, pretty strong no-confidence message.”

Mullen responded by saying commissioners weren’t “second guessing” Johnson’s ability to hire an employee in light of county administrator’s office problems.

“Sometimes, an individual might not see their own weaknesses,” Mullen said, following up his statement with a third motion, calling for the commissioners to collaborate with Johnson on the hiring of a deputy administrator.

That motion passed, 2-0, with Didier abstaining.

“I work for the board,” Johnson said. “So ultimately, it would have to be a collective decision.”

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

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Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.


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