Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 4, 2014

Friday Odds and Ends: Signups Cease, Wishes Sent and Sheriff Settles

Hello Loyal Readers,

Another beautiful Friday morning, another round of the best little tidbits in town. Before we get into all that, I want to urge everyone who reads this to participate in my survey by clicking here.With the Capital Beat all wrapped up (you can see all my coverage of the state legislature here), it is time to look to what I can do next.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you have noticed that enrollment in private insurance through the health care exchange is now closed. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, over 7.1 million people received health insurance. The original projections aimed for 7 million enrollees so it looks like the law is right on track. If you need a little levity, click here to enjoy the complete meltdown Glenn Beck had when he got the news. It is worth it.

J.J. Donovan, 1925

J.J. Donovan, 1925

Also closed recently, the Vanishing Ice exhibit at the Whatcom Museum. If you didn’t get a chance to visit, it was an artistic exploration of climate change over history and drew news coverage from the Smithsonian. As part of the exhibit, attendees were able to send their wishes to the planet. These were compiled by artist Seiko Purdue and can be seen in an adorable video here. Of course, if you are looking for a great exhibit to check out, they have “Treasures from the Trunk: The Story of J.J. Donovan” currently showing. It is a goldmine of local history. Full Disclosure: I am on the Whatcom Museum Board of Trustees.

Finally, the sheriff’s department finally settled the lawsuit launched by Paul Murphy last year, paying Murphy $300,000 for wrongful termination. My original coverage is here and a number of local news sources, including the Herald, wrote about this when it was settled earlier this week. Here’s some interesting tidbits about the story that I can add.

The central charge of the lawsuit was that Sheriff Elfo fired Deputy Paul Murphy because Murphy supported Elfo’s opponent, Detective Steve Harris for sheriff. Murphy ran a facebook page called, “Boot Bill Elfo,” now titled “Bill Elfo’s Scribe,” which aired a great deal of dirt from within the department, including sexual harassment charges that were allegedly swept under the table, and ridiculously photoshopped images. I’ve known Elfo was fan of facebook since last time I did a public records request and found a screenshot of my facebook page in his inbox.

Sheriff Bill Elfo

Sheriff Bill Elfo

Elfo contends Murphy took home a data drive (and never returned it) and inappropriately altered the settings on a county computer. After Elfo won reelection in 2011, Murphy was fired and Harris bumped down from detective to deputy. Murphy sued in response to his termination and here we are.

Obviously, the lawyers on the sheriff’s side took a look at the case and decided to settle. Both Murphy and Elfo are claiming it was too expensive to go to trial, which may be true but only one of them walked away with a check. I think both sides can breathe a sigh of relief that this messy and ugly matter is firmly tucked behind us.

Alright, I promised an update on the Goldfogel story but that will have to wait till next week. In the meantime, please take my readers survey and enjoy your weekend.



  1. Did the Taxpayers pay the $300,000?

    • It came out of the County Insurance Pool, which I believe is taxpayer dollars.

      • It is taxpayer dollars.

        Elfo is making the claim that it was a “business decision” by the risk pool to settle, which is utter nonsense. The county risk pool doesn’t settle on cases they deem to be winning cases over an 8 day civil trial.

        I’d also like to point out that Elfo, his cadre, his minions and the defense attorneys all continue to draw big salaries, DURING this entire case, so what exactly was saved by avoiding 8 days in court?

        That’s right: Little to nothing.

        What was saved was the cost being incurred by the unemployed little guy plaintiff who was wrongfully fired, who then went up against the corrupt sheriff, his sizable ego and WON.

        The reason for the settlement had nothing to do with them, or Elfo, who THEY cut out of the loop for being entirely unreasonable to work with.

        It had to do with me being unemployed and unable to bear the mounting legal costs if by some freak chance we won and didn’t get a proper monetary judgement that would’ve left me in the red.

        It was a risk I chose not to take for a case 90+% proven case so we accepted the offer to settle.

        Reasonable people know that an offer to settle doesn’t just appear without evidence and the evidence of the clear legal victory in my favor was just deposited in my bank account. 🙂

        This was never about money for me and I do think the point has been adequately made now. I was right. Elfo was wrong. I told the truth. Elfo did not. It’s that simple.

  2. Please NO “hit piece” on Dr. Goldfogel.

    • I don’t do hit pieces – it is a follow-up on my previous article.

      • Your previous article was a “hit piece”.

      • Hardly – doing original research about an issue that the County Council is considering is not a “hit piece”, it is called journalism.

      • That is a difference without a difference.

        Where did you receive your journalism degree?

      • I received a degree in Communication from WWU and am a member of the Society of Professional Journalists but moreover, citizen journalism is about local people helping uncover stories in their own communities. I have professional training in it, but that is not a prerequisite.

  3. Compare this Olympia Report write-up with what the Herald wrote.

  4. Journalism is what you do, not the school you went to and,
    since it’s so rare these days,
    it’s not surprising that Mr. Galt can’t recognize it.
    The Herald’s article on Mr. Murphy vs Mr.Elfo was tilted so far toward the Sheriff I thought he was sitting on the page,
    or maybe on Poor Ralph himself.
    Settling a lawsuit out of court isn’t a shameful strategy
    and anyone who’s ever been there knows that.
    It reflected poorly on the Lawman to brag about winning and the newspaper played right along.
    Good Luck to Mr. Murphy here on out and thanks for standing up for what’s right and proper treatment.

    • Mr. Galt could not recognize something that was NON-existent.

  5. For the math challenged who celebrate 7.1 million sign ups please note that 6 million lost their insurance. So 7.1 – 6 = 1.1 million.

    Conclusion is that the new health care law was miserable failure at its launch in missing its target (albeit after numerous delays) by 5.9 million.

    If you are celebrating this false victory then your schooling and ability to thinking critically is lacking.

    • Agreed, but don’t forget this is the low information crowd.

  6. A note on the insurance pool. Whatcom County is in a pool of other counties to deal with claims against any member county. The pool can be viewed as a way of smoothing out claims as all pay into the pool. It also provides a bit of a reality check on how to deal with claims. The pool lawyers may have concluded this was a risky case to take to trial and even if they won would still cost a lot of money. The claimant likely accepted the deal as not accepting I guarantee amount would be risky as well. Perhaps not a very satisfactory outcome for anyone. If the County had decided to not take the Insurance Pool position, the County would have been entirely the hook.

  7. Not that any politician could be wrong on any statistic, but The Washington Post apparently differs on the 7 million Obama Care sign up claim.

    “The Post’s various sources peg the tally of people who are getting (free) insurance for the first time because of Obamacare somewhere between 1.1 million and 2.6 million.”

    One also reads that many States have reportedly signed up their prisoners to pass health costs onto the Federal Government. How many of those inmates are in the 1.1 million total, I wonder?

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