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Island County hires Kitsap prosecutor to address guild claims

By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News-Times South Whidbey Record Editor
December 24, 2012 · Updated 3:19 PM
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To save a few dollars and avoid any possible conflicts of interest, Island County will hire the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office to address two recent lawsuits brought on by sheriff’s deputies.

The board of commissioners agreed at a weekly work session Wednesday to hire the office at a contracted rate of $120 per hour. The decision was made at the request of Prosecutor Greg Banks.

Island County’s top lawyer believes hiring outside legal counsel is appropriate in this case because the challenges are being brought on by law enforcement officers that he works with on a regular basis.

Banks noted that the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office is particularly skilled in such matters, retaining a specialized labor law unit, and that the contracted hourly rate was a bargain.

“It’s a great deal for getting outside counsel,” Banks said.

Comparatively, he said hourly rates for private firms are in the neighborhood of $300 and up.

The Island County Sheriff’s Guild filed a complaint against the county in Snohomish County Superior Court in November for contempt, declaratory and injunctive relief and damages.

The guild claimed the county blocked arbitration and violated the state’s Open Public Records Act.

A second suit was filed later that same month in Skagit County Superior Court for improperly withheld wages, declaratory judgment and permanent injunction.

Plaintiffs include the guild and four deputies.

Along with handling both the lawsuits, Kitsap attorneys will also represent the county with interest arbitration for the guild’s contract.

According to Island County Budget Director Elaine Marlow, the money to pay for the contract will have to come out of the county’s fund balance, a pot of money used to cover unexpected and unavoidable expenses.

Other than budgetary questions, the issue saw little comment from board members.

Commissioner Angie Homola did say, however, that she believed hiring the Kitsap team was a good solution but that she was “sorry we’re here to begin with.”

“I’d rather spend the money on staff than on silly things like this,” Homola said.

 

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