Hearings examiner position Melly will vacate might be cut

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Chris Melly’s Clallam County land-use hearings examiner position may be eliminated within a month or two after he becomes a Superior Court judge.

County Administrator Jim Jones and Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller met Friday to begin discussing options that include cutting the $79,870-a-year half-time position in favor of going with another option, Jones said.

Options include contracting with an outside attorney, Jones said.

“It might be cheaper; it might be more effective,” Jones said, adding that the position is highly specialized.

The hearings examiner reviews conditional-use permits, variances, subdivisions, binding site plans, shoreline substantial development permits, shoreline conditional uses and variances and appeals of administrative decisions, according to the county website at http://tinyurl.com/pdn-examiner.

Melly conducted 12 hearings in 2012 and had conducted 14 as of July 1, Jones said.

Before Melly became hearings examiner, the county contracted for the service with a Seattle law firm, Jones said.

Roark Miller is exploring options for filling the position, he said.

The Department of Community Development provides administrative support for the hearings examiner.

Jones and Roark Miller will provide a recommendation to the county commissioners soon after Jan. 1, Jones said.

The commissioners will make the final decision.

Melly weighed in on the issue in his resignation letter, delivered to the commissioners Friday.

“I am aware that the board is investigating the economic impacts of an in-house examiner versus a retained examiner,” Melly wrote.

Before he was hired, the annual base compensation was $90,000 for the law firm that performed his functions and more if the caseload exceeded a threshold, Melly wrote.

“Prior to deciding to bring the position in house, then-County Administrator Dan Engelbertson did an economic analysis that indicated that, over five years, the county would save $250,000 by having an in-house examiner versus a retained examiner,” wrote Melly.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 07. 2013 7:12PM
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