News

Banks fires Selby

Island County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks fired Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Steve Selby Monday morning.

The dismissal came on the heels of Selby’s Friday announcement that he would run against Banks for county prosecutor in the fall election.

“Regrettably, I have had to terminate my chief criminal deputy’s employment with this office,” Banks said in a statement released Monday morning.

“The partnership between an elected prosecutor and his chief deputy must be built on trust and loyalty. Without that foundation they cannot work together effectively,” Banks said.

Selby, a Republican, announced his candidacy for the prosecutor’s job on April 14, amid strong criticism of his boss Banks, a Democrat, who plans to seek another term.

Selby lashes out at

commissioner’s meeting

During a Board of Island County Commissioners meeting Monday morning, Selby lashed out at Banks after the deputy’s dismissal.

When the commissioners called for comments from the public, Selby strode to the lectern to face the commissioners. In his hand was one sheet of paper, which later he said he had hurriedly scribbled notes on as he walked from the county prosecutors’ office across the street to the basement hearing room.

Selby thanked everyone for the opportunity to serve the victims of the county as a prosecutor, then he launched into an account of his firing.

“When I walked in this morning, Banks immediately fired me,” Selby said. “He fired me for exercising my right to free speech.”

“I was given 15 minutes to clean out my desk. I was locked out of my computer. I was prevented from talking to others in the office,” he added. “It was with the generous support of staff that I was able to clean out my desk.”

Selby said Banks and another employee followed him around with their arms folded across their chests as Selby cleared out his office.

An obviously emotional Selby blasted Banks for using intimidation as his method for supervising attorneys and support staff. He said he had hoped the atmosphere in the prosecutor’s office would improve.

“But things got worse. Banks rules by intimidation,” Selby said. “Twelve fine attorneys have come and gone. They didn’t kowtow to Banks.”

Selby accused Banks and another office employee of riffling through other workers’ desks and searching their computer hard drives.

Politics involved

Meanwhile, Banks had entered the hearing room, through the side door near the end of Selby’s speech, but not in time to hear everything.

Banks kept his response short.

“I am sure he anticipated being fired,” Banks said.

Selby said later he was fired in an act of retribution.

“We could have done our jobs and left politics out it, but Banks couldn’t do it,” Selby said.

Banks said he dealt with the issue professional and spoke with Selby calmly and rationally. The prosecutor wrote in the termination letter that Selby is a good criminal attorney and he wished Selby and his family good luck and would write a letter of recommendation for Selby if he needed one.

In the letter, Banks also wrote it would have been appropriate for Selby to resign after announcing his candidacy for prosecutor. And Banks also said Selby’s approach had made it impossible to part on friendlier terms.

Rumors about Selby’s appearance at the meeting had circulated as early as Friday.

“This was already planned. Another county employee told me to go down there,” Banks said.

He also said he viewed Selby’s actions as a political move.

“I am just really disappointed,” Banks said about Selby’s personal attacks, which were broadcast not only at the commissioner’s meeting but in the media and on the Internet.

“I am really surprised. But it’s a political campaign,” Banks said. “My first priority is to run this office.”

Mac McDowell, chair of the board of commissioners said he saw no reason to ask Selby to rephrase some of the statements he made about Banks at the meeting or to ask him to stop speaking.

“I think the only two reasons why we have cut people off is when someone starts to address someone else in the audience as if trying to question them or their beliefs or enter into some type of dialogue,” he said. “When I have been chair my first comment in such a scenario is to tell the speaker to direct their comments to the board, not the audience. If they continue to try and engage the audience will cut them off,” he said.

The other reason would be limited comments is people not sticking to an acceptable time limit.

“I could be wrong, but I don’t recall ever preventing someone from speaking because they are stating their beliefs about an action taken by a public official. I have never had the occasion but I probably would attempt to stop someone if they were using many profane words towards someone,” McDowell said.

The commissioners remain neutral on the situation

“One point is the commissioners are not the boss of any other elected official,” McDowell said. “We do not control the running of the offices of those other elected officials. Each elected official is responsible to the public how they run their respective offices and the public as the ability to decide if the job performance is acceptable every four years.”

Sheriff Mike Hawley, who was among the county employees who attended the commissioners meeting, voiced concern.

“We in law enforcement are shocked about Greg Banks’ actions, and gravely concerned,” Hawley said.

Selby publicly criticized boss

Selby, 54, was the county’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor since 1998.

Last week, he harshly criticized Banks as a “micro-manager,” and also blamed Banks for high employee turnover in the prosecutor’s office and for soured relations with local law enforcement officials and with the attorneys and staff in the prosecutor’s office. Selby also said that Banks was not spending much time in court.

Banks, however, noted Selby did carry a lot of high-profile cases while he worked on smaller cases. Banks said he also handles appeals and administrative duties in addition to his regular case load.

Those who know his work ethic would agree that he works very hard, Banks said.

“I am usually the last one to leave at night,” he said.

Banks declined comment on Selby’s job performance.

He said Selby was a good trial attorney, but after Selby’s recent actions, a functional work relationship was no longer possible.

“I can’t have a second in command who is not trustworthy,” he said.

Termination not surprising

Selby’s dismissal was not completely unexpected.

There was talk Monday around the county campus in Coupeville among county employees that he may be fired.

Selby himself raised the possibility when announcing his candidacy last week.

“I realize I could be fired for taking this step, but it’s time to bring about change,” Selby said on Friday.

Banks said it was necessary to terminate Selby.

“Mr. Selby’s abrupt actions have disrupted the office,” Banks said. “In an office this size, we can only succeed in our mission if all oars are pulling in the same direction. It is necessary now to heal any rifts he created and restore the public’s confidence. Fortunately, I know I have a dedicated staff that can do so, regardless of whom they support in the election.”

Banks said the alternative to firing Selby could have been overloading Selby with busy-work and falling into the political campaign game, but that would have not been in the best interest of the public.

“I can’t run this office with tactical considerations on my mind,” he said.

Change won’t affect cases

The personnel change has caused bigger workloads for employees of the prosecutor’s office.

“The problem is we were already short one deputy,” Banks said, but added that the staff will respond to the challenge.

“We’ll just do it,” Banks said. “Obviously, this is a difficult time for the office.”

There won’t be any delays based on the change, Banks said.

Selby had 14 pending cases which have been reassigned to Banks and other deputies.

The more significant cases include a child molestation trial out of Oak Harbor, as well as a vehicular homicide, also out of Oak Harbor.

One of the upcoming South Whidbey cases is the trial of Gabrielle Glasen, who allegedly beat her teenage daughter. The trial is set for June.

Selby also worked on the Tinna Rankin case.

Rankin, 24, of Langley, was killed instantly in a one-car collision last spring.

However, Selby was recently taken off the case at the request of the family, and Banks reassigned the case to himself. Charges have not been filed as Banks said he is waiting for information from the crime lab on the case.

Brian Kelly contributed to this report

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