Losing job no surprise, treasurer candidate says

Wanda Grone wasn’t surprised when she was fired last week.

Grone, a Coupeville resident, had been the chief deputy treasurer in Island County for more than three years. Last Monday, she filed to run against her boss in this fall’s election.

She said she knew she was risking losing her job as a result of the decision. As second-in-command at the office, Grone was an at-will employee and could be fired without cause.

Still, she said she felt strongly that a change needed to be made and that she was the person to do it.

“I truly believe that elected officials are there to serve the people,” she said. “They need to be responsive, they need to be hard working and they need to have an attitude that they’re here to serve others.”

Sure enough, Treasurer Ana Maria Nuñez fired her on Thursday. Grone said she was called to the human resources office, where Nuñez told her she could no longer trust her because she didn’t tell her about her plans ahead of time. Grone said she was allowed to say goodbye to people in the office before leaving.

Nuñez is a Democrat and Grone is running as a Republican.

Coupeville resident Christa Canell also filed to run for treasurer as a Republican. She works at Land Title and Escrow. She also sees a need for change in the office.

Nuñez said she was shocked that Grone is running against her and especially that she didn’t inform her beforehand. Nuñez said she needs to be able to trust her chief deputy as a confidant and she felt she no longer could.

Nuñez’s actions were not unprecedented. Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks fired his Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Selby in 2006 after Selby filed to run without telling him. Banks won that election.

Grone said she didn’t warn Nuñez ahead of time about her intentions because she didn’t feel it was necessary to notify anyone before practicing her right to run for office. In addition, she said Nuñez is “not approachable.”

Nuñez has been criticized for a backlog of unprocessed property tax supplements in her office. Grone said part of the problem is Nuñez’s absence from the office. Grone said she took a three-month leave related to a family issue last year and always takes “at least a week off” for every holiday.

“The county and its citizens deserve a full-time treasurer who responds promptly to communication from the public and cooperates with other county departments,” Grone wrote in a statement.

Grone said she is a certified public accountant and a certified fraud examiner with more than 30 years of accounting and financial experience.