The Island County prosecutor is asking the state Supreme Court to allow his lawsuit against a private attorney to bypass the court of appeals.
Prosecutor Greg Banks’ attorney, Pam Loginsky, filed the statement of grounds for direct review last week.
Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said the board won’t oppose the request for direct review.
“It will save us from a greater waste of public funds as a result of this unwarranted lawsuit,” she said.
So far, the litigation has cost the county nearly $250,000 in legal fees, according to Budget Director Elaine Marlow.
Banks brought quo warrants action against land-use attorney Susan Drummond last year after the county commissioners hired her to assist them with the comprehensive plan amendment. He tried to oust her from the job, claiming she was usurping his authority as the commissioners’ legal counsel.
The commissioners indemnified Drummond, which means the taxpayers are paying for her legal bills in defending against the lawsuit. The commissioners also successfully intervened in the case and hired their own attorney.
The commissioners and Banks point to each other as the cause of the high costs associated with the litigation. Banks claimed that the private attorneys hired by Drummond and the commissioners unnecessarily delayed and complicated the straight-forward question of law with depositions and personal attacks. He said his side of the litigation is supported by the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and doesn’t cost the county anything.
Price Johnson said the entire lawsuit was an unnecessary waste of public funds on the part of Banks and the association.
“If they wanted to have a different state law they should be working with the legislature,” she said, “not pursing costly litigation.”
Banks lost that argument in Skagit County Superior Court last month when the judge granted summary judgment in favor of Drummond and the commissioners.
The judge found that the commissioners’ contract with Drummond, which was approved by the presiding superior court judge, was valid under RCW 36.32.200.
Banks kept his promise to appeal directly to the Supreme Court.
“This case presents a fundamental issue affecting the government of all 39 Washington states,” the statement for direct review says. “Who chooses the legal advisor to county officials? Can each official or body of officials select his, her, or their own advisor, to serve at public expense? Or do the voters select a single person who will advise all the county officials, by electing a county prosecutor?”
The commissioners previously said they hoped Banks would not pursue an appeal since the matter appeared to be settled and they don’t want to spend more funds on litigation.
The statement for direct review says that the matter could be ready for hearing before the Supreme Court during the spring term.