Legal costs of investigation linked to Clallam’s elected Community Development Director Roark Miller more than $66,000

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Legal costs related to an investigation into a whistle-blower complaint against Clallam County Department of Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller now total $66,429.

County officials said Monday the costs consist of $57,329 for Bullard Law of Portland, Ore., to investigate the complaint and $9,100 for the law office of Kenneth W. Bagwell of Silverdale to represent Roark Miller, the only elected DCD director in the nation.

A state Attorney General’s Office review of the investigation, and the possible filing of formal charges against Roark Miller, could be completed “potentially by the end of the week,” agency spokeswoman Alison Dempsey Hall said Monday.

The 19 pages of billings from Bullard include charges of $340 an hour for 162 hours, with 22.7 hours not charged, County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brian Wendt said.

Bullard lawyer Akin Blitz had said the county would receive discount for the investigation.

The costs include mileage for 1,380 miles travelled to conduct the investigation.

Bagwell is being paid $250 an hour.

Roark Miller said Monday that she does not expect to be charged with any wrongdoing.

“I am expecting a good report,” she said.

Bullard Law, an employment-law firm that represents the county Human Resources Department, has not made its report public.

The report’s June 19 cover letter, which the law firm did make public, states Roark Miller suggests seven possible charges:

Injury to a public record, injury to and misappropriation of a record, offering a false instrument for filing or record and misappropriation and falsification of accounts by a public officer, all felonies; and official misconduct, false report and public officer making false certificates, a gross misdemeanor.

According to the cover letter, Roark Miller’s actions “directly or indirectly resulted in the alteration, destruction or falsification by backdating Clallam County DCD documents and a reduction of permit fees due from the applicant under circumstances that may have warranted a waiver of the 2013 fee increases but do not appear to constitute a justification or defense for falsification of public records.”

Bullard investigated Miller on behalf of county Human Resources after a DCD employee alleged Feb. 21 that Roark Miller “seems to be utilizing her power in order to get special privileges that are not granted to the public,” according to the complaint.

The investigation grew into a larger review of whether she used her office for personal gain and whether she backdated a public record.

Her actions enabled the owner of a $614,321 Agnew-area mushroom growing and processing business to avoid restrictions imposed under the new Dungeness-area water rule, which went into effect Jan. 1.

Miller said in June that her office should have processed the permit more quickly for permit applicant George Vaughan of Athens, Ohio.

“I backdated the permit,” she told the Peninsula Daily News.

“It was the right thing to do for the applicant’s sake.”

Roark Miller said Monday that Vaughan’s permit was the only one she has backdated.

“The only time I have had to do such a thing was based on staff making a mistake, and hopefully we will never be under the gun again.”

The permit application was made in September.

“All other permits are based on the application date, not the issuance date,” Roark Miller said.

“The application came in September and was issued in January with the December date on it.

“Those are the nitpicky essentials.”

Roark Miller would not comment on how many times she has met with a lawyer from Bagwell.

“The issue here has to do more with how much money the county spent on an investigation that could have easily been handled by a few questions to me,” she said.

County Administrator Jim Jones defended the expenditures.

“While this did cost a fair amount of money, we had to do it because of the circumstances involved with an elected official,” he said.

“We can’t be accused of sweeping it under the rug, and we felt the best way to do that was to hire an outside investigator to do that.

“I’m convinced we did what we were required to do.

“We have to protect the county; we have to protect Sheila if it’s determined that she was right.”

Legal costs for the case will be drawn from the county’s $1.4 million risk management fund.

The whistle-blower had Roark Miller asked an employee to inspect a job site on a Sunday and not record the overtime.

Roark Miller said an employee overheard a conversation she had in the office and made assumptions about what had happened.

She said she had told the inspector to take time off to make up for the work and that it was the inspector who did not want to be paid.

________

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

Last modified: August 19. 2013 5:28PM
Reader Comments
Local Business
Friends to Follow

To register a complaint about a comment, email moderator@peninsuladailynews.com and refer to the article and offending comment, or click here: REPORT ABUSE.

Peninsuladailynews.com comments are subject to the Peninsuladailynews.com User Policy.

From the PDN:




All materials Copyright © 2014 Black Press Ltd./Sound Publishing Inc. • Terms of UsePrivacy PolicyAssociated Press Copyright NoticeContact Us