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County gets ‘bargain rate’ in sale of antique furniture from Judge Godfrey

MONTESANO — Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Gordon Godfrey said he might have sold some antique furniture to the county recently, but he doesn’t view that as a sign he’ll be immediately retiring. He says he’s still “a good year or so” away from that decision.

Godfrey says the furniture had been in the superior court offices for the past 22 years or so, since he first became judge, and he thought it was time to make sure it was owned by the county.

Godfrey sold the furniture to the county for $4,750, which included a large conference table that could also be used as a desk, along with six leather chairs. The furniture was already in the courthouse. The item was included with all of the other vouchers and claims when the county commissioners approved payment of the bills back in January. The commissioners never discussed the sale of the furniture last month.

County Commission Chairman Frank Gordon says that although an official appraisal of the furniture was never done, the price was well worth what the county paid for it.

“I have a lot of friends who know about antiques … and the furniture is worth three times what we paid for it, easy,” Gordon said.

County Commissioner Herb Welch said it would have been nice to have talked about the expenditure first, but says it wasn’t a battle worth fighting, especially since the invoice was paid a month ago.

“It is what it is,” Commissioner Wes Cormier said.

Godfrey said he acquired the furniture from the son-in-law of the original president of the Bank of Grays Harbor, which was based in Aberdeen. He says the desk dates to the 1900s to the 1910s. Godfrey had the furniture re-upholstered and refinished and it served as his desk when he was the senior managing partner of Phillips, Krause and Brown, before becoming a judge.

He brought it with him when he was appointed a judge in 1992. He’s since been elected repeatedly, most recently two years ago and served as the superior court’s presiding judge.

“At some point, I will be retiring and I just wanted to make sure the furniture was protected and stayed with the county,” Godfrey said. “I’m not quite at that decision yet. Maybe a good year or so.”

The table now sits in the office of fellow Judge Mark McCauley and the chairs are scattered about the offices and are often fought over by jury members “because it has a cushion,” Godfrey notes.

“You know, when I first brought the furniture here, Dick Dixon, who was the commissioner here at the time, offered to have the county pay me $50 a month in rent,” Godfrey said. “In retrospect, I would have made a whole lot of money on that. … To me, it wasn’t about the money. It was about making sure the furniture stayed here. I’ve had plenty of attorneys tell me they’d be interested in buying it. Frankly, the county made money because I could have sold it for more, in my opinion … I want it to remain here. It belongs in this courthouse. We’re going to be gone; we’re all going to be gone and this courthouse is still going to be here. You’re going to ruin the atmosphere of the room if you take it out of here, which already has antique bookshelves.”

Commissioner Gordon said he understood the historic significance behind it and says the county is lucky to have Judge Godfrey to sell it to the county “at a bargain rate.”