MONTESANO — County Commission Chairman Frank Gordon has set a deadline of Dec. 18 for the Grays Harbor Democrats to meet and supply a new list of prosecutor candidates for the commissioners to consider to fill the vacant position.
Gordon says he’s hoping the new list will contain only those not interested in seeking the position in next year’s General Election, aimed squarely at asking the Democrats to kick Deputy Prosecutor Katie Svoboda off the list as well as potential candidate Mike Spencer, a former prosecutor, who didn’t make the list but is interested in the office.
Gordon says that if the Democrats do not supply a list of candidates at that point, the commissioners will then solicit their own potential nominees for the post and fill it themselves. The commissioners as a whole did not vote on the move Monday afternoon. It was announced solely by Gordon.
Gordon says he’s not been soliciting legal advice from the county’s Prosecutor’s Office or the longtime civil attorney, Deputy Prosecutor Jim Baker, who typically advises the commissioners purposefully. Gordon says that Baker is “between a rock and a hard place” and he doesn’t want to make him choose sides.
Instead, Gordon says he’s been relying on legal advice “from those higher up,” declining to name names, “and those associated with the Governor’s Office.”
It’s one thing for the commissioners to ask for a new set of names, which is already treading some murky legal waters with differing opinions on whether that’s even possible. It would be quite another set of legal circumstances if the commissioners completely bypass the organized Democrats altogether because retired Prosecutor Stew Menefee is a Democrat.
“I’m not sure if they can do that,” said Patrick Wadsworth, secretary for the Grays Harbor Democrats, who attended Monday afternoon’s commission meeting.
Prosecutor appointee Vini Samuel, a family law attorney from Montesano, declined the appointment in a Nov. 27 letter to the commissioners.
Samuel, state attorney George Smylie and Svoboda were on the list for the commissioners to choose from. Spencer didn’t make the list.
Several of the Democrats say that the commissioners must pick someone else from the existing list before asking for a new one. There’s also the question if the clock has run out for the commissioners to fill the prosecutor’s vacancy and if the whole matter is actually up to Gov. Jay Inslee to decide on now.
Menefee retired on Sept. 30, putting the 60-day clock expiration on Nov. 29.
Gordon affirmed that the county commissioners do have the right to seek a new list of three and that Inslee shouldn’t be able to appoint anyone at this point because he says the 60-day clock re-started when Samuel declined her post.
Gordon again declined to say who he’s getting legal advice from.
“What we would like from the Democratic Party is a list of three names, good Democrats that would like to take the office with the one year left and these Democrats would not be interested in running for the office,” Gordon announced at the end of Monday’s commissioner meeting. “… If not, we, through some of the people we’ve talked to up the food chain, we’re going to go for a list of Democrats that would be interested in filling this seat without the use of the Democratic Party if it comes down to that.”