Clallam County names acting prosecuting attorney; three to be interviewed

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners have tabbed chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols to serve as acting county prosecuting attorney until one of three candidates is named interim prosecutor next month.

In addition to Nichols, finalists for interim prosecutor are William Payne, an assistant state attorney general who unsuccessfully ran in 2012 for a Superior Court judge position, and Robert Strohmeyer, who heads the general-practice Robert W. Strohmeyer Law Office and has been a lawyer for more than 30 years.

Commissioners appointed Nichols by a 3-0 vote Tuesday to oversee the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office contingent on the Dec. 31 retirement of current Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Kelly.

Kelly had named Nichols to take her place until commissioners appoint an interim prosecutor.

Since Kelly is a Republican, the Clallam County Republican Central Committee picked three candidates Monday from a pool of four Port Angeles attorneys for commissioners to consider for the $61.20-an-hour — $127,302 a year — position.

Commissioners expect to interview the finalists Jan. 13 and name an interim prosecuting attorney Jan. 14.

“That’s the plan,” board Chairman Mike Chapman said.

The interim prosecutor will serve the remainder of Kelly’s current term, which expires Dec. 31, 2014.

Central committee Chairman Dick Pilling said a fourth applicant, Loren Oakley of the nonprofit Clallam Public Defender, was also interviewed by the committee Monday.

“They were all very strong candidates,” Pilling said.

“We were all delighted that they put their names forward. If we were allowed four, we would have put all four to the commissioners.”

Under state law, the Board of County Commissioners has 60 days from Kelly’s official resignation date to pick an interim prosecutor.

If a majority of the board cannot agree on an appointee within 60 days, Gov. Jay Inslee will select Kelly’s replacement.

Whoever is chosen will face election in November.

Chapman has said he expects that all the applicants are willing to run for the office in November.

Nichols has said he intends to run.

Pilling said the central committee gave each of the four candidates 15 minutes to make his or her case to about two dozen voting committee members.

“They were all good candidates, and they all brought something to the table, so to speak,” Pilling said.

Pilling said he reached out to the bar association shortly after Kelly announced her resignation Nov. 15 to expedite the replacement process.

“I wanted to make sure [the commissioners] were not waiting for us,” Pilling said, adding: “I tried to make this as clear and as transparent as possible.”

Kelly, 61, was elected in 2002. She is retiring with one year left on her four-year term to spend more time with her family due to health issues involving her husband, Don.

The commissioners will interview the three finalists in open session.

The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office’s budget for 2014 is $1.5 million and is staffed with 14.72 full-time-equivalent positions, a reduction of two full-time positions compared with 2013 due to a reduction in hours for all Prosecuting Attorney’s Office employees.

For 2013, the office is on pace to exceed 2012 felony trials, juvenile hearings, District Court crimes filed and citations, and legal-action requests from county departments, according to performance measures and budget summaries available at the county website at http://tinyurl.com/pdn-budget.

Chapman has said he wants to appoint a person with experience in civil and criminal law who has knowledge of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office’s budget, someone with ideas on how unfunded requests might be funded.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.



Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.

Last modified: December 17. 2013 7:28PM
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