Democrats fire back at commissioners on prosecutor

In a letter sent Wednesday, Grays Harbor Democrats deny the Grays Harbor County Commissioners’ request for a new list of candidates for County Prosecutor and fire back at new requests and deadlines announced by Commissioner Frank Gordon.

“We have provided the county commissioners a list of three qualified candidates. If one declines, you have two more candidates to consider. It is a list to exhaustion,” party Chairman George Smylie wrote.

On Monday, Gordon said he would allow the Democrats until Dec. 18 to provide a new list of candidates after Montesano attorney Vini Samuel declined the appointment Nov. 27. If they don’t, Gordon said he believes the commissioners will be able to form their own list of Democratic candidates.

The commissioners have been looking for a replacement for Prosecutor Stew Menefee, who retired in September. Anyone appointed would serve only the remainder of his term ending in 2014. Gordon, a Democrat, said Monday the commissioners want three new candidates for the positon who will not be interested in running for a new term after that.

In his letter, Smylie decried Gordon’s request for a “placeholder” prosecutor.

“Expecting an attorney to be a placeholder, then not run for it, isn’t asking for the best person for the job. It’s begging for mediocrity,” he wrote.

Smylie called the request for a new list under such a deadline improper because it doesn’t allow sufficient notice to precinct officers under the party’s bylaws. He also called it unconstitutional because it’s outside the process spelled out in the state constitution. The constitution calls for a list of three candidates to replace Menefee be submitted to the commissioners, and the Democrats did that on Oct. 3, selecting Senior Deputy Prosecutor Katie Svoboda as their top choice, followed by Smylie and Samuel.

Gordon has said legal advice from unspecified sources in the Attorney General’s Office and the Governor’s Office supports his view that the commissioners aren’t stuck with the first list.

The process going forward is disputed. The constitution states that if a replacement isn’t appointed within 60 days the decision goes to Gov. Jay Inslee, but the commissioners believe they may ask the Democrats for another list of candidates because they did make a selection.

Smylie said it was unreasonable to ask the Democrats to find candidates with no interest in running for their own term because the party can’t bind anyone from running for office.

“Public safety is not a game. The prosecutor deals with rapists, child molesters and murderers. A placeholder, who may have never prosecuted a felony in their life, should not be used to give your favorite candidate a better shot and comes at a cost to public safety for our citizens.”

Democrats have maintained the commisioners have obstructed the process to fill the position because former prosecutor and Superior Court judge Mike Spencer did not make the list of candidates.

Spencer was unsure after the October Democrats meeting whether he would try for the office in the General Election.

On Smylie’s letter, Frank Gordon said Wednesday, “I am just baffled that a mature man could come up with so much bull.”

He did add he hopes to proceed with Smylie “in an honest process.”

In his letter, Smylie affirmed Svoboda as the party’s choice to replace Menefee.

“Ms. Svoboda is an experienced prosecutor who has made a career out of locking up the worst of the worst. She makes tough decisions for her clients — the public — every day.”

Daily World reporter Erin Hart contributed to this story.


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