Forced to Resign From the Washington Legislature in 2011
By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D
(Nov. 2, 2017) – Amid the flurry of news stories regarding sexual harassment by celebrities, such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and others, I was listening to an OPB newscast and heard a familiar name, Jim Jacks. Next, the reporter briefly discussed Jacks’ 2011 dismissal from the Washington Legislature for inappropriate behavior. I knew that name. Hearing it made my stomach lurch.
I was dumbstruck when I heard (and read a release from The Associated Press) that Jacks was among the current pack of predators being called out (as published in the LA Times and Chicago Tribune). I’d known that he had walked off the job as a Washington State House Representative in 2011 without explanation—except for a handwritten note faxed from an Oregon hotel (to House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan). What I didn’t know was that he’d been forced to resign for “inappropriate behavior” toward a young female staffer (verified this week by the Washington State Democratic House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan).
A month after Jacks’ inexplicable departure, an unremarkable tidbit had been published in Scott Campbell’s Vancouver newspaper, The Columbian. Interviewed by The Columbian’s Editor Lou Brancaccio, Jacks supposedly admitted to alcoholism and said he was taking time off from politics to resolve his personal problems.
Rumors had surfaced among the Vancouver locals who knew Jacks: They’d suspected he was canned for sexual misconduct; especially since they saw him drinking in local establishments. None of this was reported at the time. In fact, Brancaccio reported that Jacks was not guilty of any misconduct, and he encouraged readers to support Jacks on his journey to recovery.
This week (six years later), Sullivan confessed to hiding this truth for those many years. His excuse: The female staffer involved was reluctant to go public at the time. If that was true, why did Sullivan think it timely to reveal this secret now? Could it be that Jacks’ improprieties were about to surface anyway, and it would be politically expedient to admit the truth first? (But that is another story).
Gossip? Or is there more?
Before you write me off as pedaling salacious gossip, let me remind you that back in 2004 Jacks was part of a ring of three Vancouver government employees, who set out to destroy me with a defaming memo defining me as a “functional sociopath” who’d been diagnosed by psychologist Frank Colistro, Ed.D. At the prompting of Vancouver’s then City Prosecutor Josephine Townsend and Code Enforcement Officer Richard Landis, Jacks had been the one to write that damaging and untrue memo. He sent this libelous memo to the Vancouver City Manager, Mayor, and City Council . . . but neglected to inform me of his action. Thus I had no recourse to protect myself.
Not only had he lied to the others about my diagnosis, he’d declared that I had no respect for the authority of the court and believed that the state’s laws did not apply to me. He suggested that Dr. Colistro had found me to be an angry and abusive person. According to Jacks, I was destined to lose my license as a psychologist for all of my supposed and absolutely fabricated wrongdoings.
None of this was true, and Jacks’ lies about me were categorically denied by Dr. Colistro. Still, his single untruthful memo set off a decade-plus witch hunt that cost me half a million dollars in legal fees; many emotionally frightening nights; and the loss of my children. I was able to sue the City of Vancouver for this malicious defamation (and won a small settlement), but I will never be able to reclaim the life I had as a mother to my children. Jim Jacks stole that from me just as he stole peace of mind from his more recent victim.
What does the #MeToo phenomenon have to do with it?
What does the #MeToo phenomenon have to do with me and my encounter with Jim Jacks? When the stories started to tumble out about the sexual exploitation of women by powerful men in Hollywood and business, the #MeToo Tweet went viral on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. I could relate. Like most women, I have had many an encounter with a male boss who crossed the line. Some would call these micro-aggressions, but they nevertheless left me speechless and afraid.
- The elementary school principal I worked for as a school social worker, who would stand and watch me walk up the stairs.
- The eighth grade teacher who kept me after school so that, once alone, he could stroke my hair.
- The boss who stared down my shirt and asked if I was wearing a bra.
- The grad school professor who singled me out in public for “driving him wild.”
- The groping and leering I endured on the subways and trains of Europe.
- The times that men exposed themselves to me in public, going so far as to offer me money for sexual acts.
- The time a strange man followed me to my hotel on the beach at Waikiki and tried to get into my room.
- Even my first encounter with a sexual predator was frightening. I was only five when a man offered me candy, and asked me to climb into his car.
Jim Jacks is not guilty of sexual misconduct with me; nonetheless, he damaged me badly with his unconscionable lies. Hearing the new and appalling stories of others who have suffered predation, a floodgate of emotion about betrayal and destruction overcame me. Not only is Jacks guilty of defamation, he’s guilty of never giving me a chance to defend myself (just as many women suffer in silence about their sexual assaults).
The Jacks’ abusive memo was kept secret for five years until I discovered it in a public records request I made of the City of Vancouver in 2009. I was shocked and overwhelmed to find that exonerating piece of evidence. I imagine Sullivan, coming forward six years after Jacks’ “inappropriate” behavior with a State Capitol staffer, is feeling shock waves of his own. He covered for Jacks and contributed to harming the young woman he assaulted by silencing her complaint.
It is the silence that kills one’s spirit. As for me, I won’t be silenced anymore about Jacks or the rest of the scoundrels in Vancouver, Washington. Victims shouldn’t have to stand by watching their abusers and others cover up these injustices.
If you’ve had similar experiences with Jim Jacks, who now works at Portland State University in Oregon, I’d welcome hearing from you at — #MeToo Jim Jacks
How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you
I have written about people like Jim Jacks in my soon-to-be-published book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you.” In fact, Jacks is one of the two people figuring most prominently in the stories I tell. But I think I have been too easy on Jacks. Like so many survivors of abuse, I’ve tried to see him as less despicable than he really is.
Why? Because it somehow makes me feel a little safer in the world. That is, if it wasn’t that bad, or if it was just a mistake (even a terrible mistake), or if there had been something I could have done differently. . . then I could feel just a bit safer in an unpredictable world where there really are people hell-bent on destroying you, just like Jacks did to me.
It really is even worse than that actually. Sometimes there is a mob of conscienceless people who are working together to destroy you. Think about how it worked in my case. As Vancouver Citizen Advocate, Jacks set me up to lose my freedom, my property, and my children with his malicious memo. The next year, he was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives. As a newly- minted legislator, he did the bidding of Vancouver’s power brokers and helped to pass legislation for a Train Horn Noise Quiet Zone (THNQZ) in our neighborhood.
Because of my so-called sociopathy (a completely unfounded rumor that had spread like wildfire through political crowds, civil servants, and neighbors), no one would listen to me about safety at the train crossing near my house. Without the train horn, cyclers, motorists, and pedestrians using the railroad crossing would have little warning of an approaching train; hence, be in great danger of being hit by the train.
The greedy neighbors also felt justified filing false complaints against me with Code Enforcement in order to push forward the revocation of my business and professional licenses. Without my ability to work, I would have been totally crushed and eventually been forced out of their way. That was just what the heartless land developers wanted; then they could make millions on waterfront real estate development. There’s more to this story, but I think you get the picture (and it is more fully explained in my book).
I won’t be silenced
In light of this breaking news of Jacks’ story, I can now let go of my self-deception and be more clear-eyed about who Jacks really is, a man fully without empathy and dangerous to others. Clearly, Jacks abused his power as a legislator. He lied to the press when he resigned. Plus, he has done nothing to correct the grave damage he caused me by writing the defaming memo.
He’d had a chance to come clean when he was deposed by my attorney in 2013. At that time, Jacks was asked if he actually believed what he had written about me (considering he’d never actually investigated the lies, instead, trusting what others had said). He‘d been shamefully cool. Without so much as an embarrassed downward glance, he’d said, “I had no reason to believe it was untrue.”
When empathy fails, and power is in the hands of those without a conscience, they plow a wide swath of destruction. Even after all of my study of and experience with real-life scoundrels, I’d given Jacks too much credit. I’d let him silence me and I’d been fooled by yet another unredeemable person with severe Empathy Dysfunction. Don’t let this be you.
Kathy Marshack, Ph.D. is a Portland Psychologist, and investigative journalist for the US~Observer. Her forthcoming book “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you” will soon be featured here on the US~Observer.
Note from the Publisher of the US~Observer: We at the US~Observer recognize that there is a great deal more to investigate on this breaking news story. For example, we have questions about why the Democratic Majority Leader chose this moment to reveal the truth about Jim Jacks? Why Jacks was replaced at the state legislature by the wife of Vancouver’s Chief City Attorney? Why the city of Vancouver suppressed the defaming memo about Dr. Marshack in the first place and still tries to cover it up? Why former City Prosecutor Townsend was fired and then inexplicably offered a financial settlement to leave quietly? With all of the outrageous evidence against Jacks and the others, why did Dr. Marshack’s attorneys settle her case for a pittance instead of going to trial? We have a great many more questions that will be investigated because like Dr. Marshack we don’t believe victims should be silenced. — Edward Snook.