MONTESANO — Grays Harbor County Commissioner Frank Gordon says he’s still looking at scenarios to see if there’s a way to get Michael Spencer formally considered as a candidate for Grays Harbor Prosecutor.
Gordon tabled discussion of the appointment process Monday morning for the vacant prosecutor position for another week.
Deputy Prosecutor Katie Svoboda emerged as the top pick of the Grays Harbor Democrats’ precinct committee officers on Oct. 3. Other candidates on the list include Grays Harbor Democratic Chairman George Smylie, an attorney for the state, and former Democratic chairwoman Vini Samuel, an attorney from Montesano. Smylie and Samuel both support Svoboda for the position and were nominated specifically to keep Spencer, a former Democratic prosecutor, off the list and make Svoboda the ultimate choice for the Republican-dominated county commissioners to choose.
Commissioners Wes Cormier and Herb Welch are Republicans. Gordon is a Democrat, although he says he’s a “pissed off Democrat” at this point.
“I feel that while, personally, Katie was a very well qualified person, Mike Spencer was also a well qualified person and that the Democratic Party went around our Democratic values and they made it so we don’t have a choice and I think the commissioners ought to have a choice of who goes into that job,” Gordon said, before asking for the issue to be tabled another week. “That’s a very important job and a job that shouldn’t even be party affiliated because the prosecutor is for everybody in the county, not just for the Dems or the Republicans or whoever.”
“I appreciate that Frank, and I’m behind you 100 percent,” Welch replied.
Menefee retired on Sept. 30. The commissioners named Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Gerald Fuller as acting prosecutor. Fuller didn’t seek the permanent position and was sworn into the position last week. The commissioners have 60 days from the date Menefee retired to appoint to the position.
If the commissioners don’t appoint a person by the end of November, the whole appointment process goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for his appointment.
“I’m not sure I’m ready for this to go to the governor yet, though,” Welch said.
Commissioner Cormier says he’s been researching a scenario to see what would happen if all three commissioners abstain from voting. Cormier says it appears that the governor still wouldn’t get the appointment until the 60-day clock runs out, but he’s waiting for final confirmation of that.
Gordon says he’s looking at scenarios of what would happen if the county appoints Samuel or Smylie for the post and if they decline the position, would the process then have to go back to the Democrats for a new list or would the commissioners be forced to pick Svoboda, who would be the remaining candidate.
Gordon said this whole situation has also spurred him to look into whether the county’s political offices ought to be converted into non-partisan positions. Welch said he’s been wondering the same thing for years.
“We have many offices here and once you’re in there, your job is to serve everybody, not just if you’re red or you’re blue or pink or whatever color you’re in when you’re in there,” Gordon said.
If the process does end up with Inslee, House legislators in the Coastal Caucus may have his ear and tell him to support Svoboda.
Last week, the legislators issued endorsements for Svoboda — the first elected officials besides Menefee to do so.
Coming into the selection process, Spencer was setting himself up as the establishment candidate with 48 attorneys endorsing him, as well as the mayors of Hoquiam, Aberdeen and Cosmopolis and as the majority of commissioners on the Port of Grays Harbor and the Grays Harbor PUD.
Spencer had letters of endorsement from former Democratic county commissioners Bill Vogler, Mike Murphy, Bob Paylor and Dennis Morrisette.
State Reps. Dean Takko, Kevin Van De Wege, Steve Tharinger and Brian Blake sent a joint press release on Thursday solidly endorsing Svoboda as their candidate of choice.
If Svoboda gets the appointment, she’ll be the first female prosecutor in the county’s history.
“Katie’s born and raised on the Harbor and has dedicated herself to keeping our community safe,” Blake, D-Aberdeen, said in the press release. “I know she’ll help move the Harbor forward because she and her family have strong roots here. She’ll help make this a better place for families and a horrible place for criminals.”
Takko, D-Longview, also endorsed Svoboda.
“The biggest job county governments face — and the biggest part of county budgets — is criminal justice,” Takko said in the press release. “Katie’s a top-notch prosecutor who’s been putting away the worst of the worst for years. There’s nothing more important than keeping our families safe, and I’m happy to support her.”
Van De Wege, a firefighter and Democrat from Sequim, added, “As a firefighter, I know how police, prosecutors and first responders have to work together and trust each other to keep our citizens safe. My district includes a good portion of Grays Harbor and I know Katie has built strong ties with law enforcement throughout the county.”
Tharinger, a former county commissioner and also a Democrat from Sequim, added, “A solid criminal justice system is one of the bedrocks of our democracy and the rule of law. To make it work, we need prosecutors and judges who uphold the highest notions of ethics and personal integrity.”
Svoboda has also received the endorsement of Menefee.