PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has authorized the city manager to sign an agreement with the city of Sequim to help the cities negotiate with Clallam County for the continued provision of criminal justice services.
The council voted 6-0 Tuesday to give City Manager Nathan West the authority to ink the joint collaboration and confidentiality agreement — if necessary — to allow the cities to exchange confidential information that is protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Mayor Sissi Bruch was excused.
The council action was prompted by a letter that Clallam County commissioners sent to the two cities last month. The letter informed the cities of the county’s intent to terminate 10-year interlocal agreements for the provision of criminal justice services.
Under the interlocal agreements, which took effect in January 2016, Clallam County would provide District Court services, jailing, prosecution and defense of indigent clients for the two cities at a fixed cost.
The city of Port Angeles pays the county about $800,000 annually and the city of Sequim pays about $320,000.
The cost of providing those services is expected to rise amid new legislation that prohibits courts from charging legal fees to indigent defendants, county officials have said.
The three Clallam County commissioners agreed Tuesday to rescind the July 10 letter to the cities.
“We certainly would appreciate them rescinding that letter,” West told the City Council later Tuesday.
“We think there’s a great opportunity to work collaboratively with the county, and that’s something that we would like to pursue first and foremost, making sure that we have a fact-based approach.
“In light of the potential for them to rescind that letter,” West added, “I think it’s important, rather than move forward with this [joint collaboration and confidentiality agreement] and have council approve it, I think it might be more appropriate to have the city manager authorized to sign the agreement, if necessary, following further development of that county action that was taken this morning.”
Officials with all three jurisdictions were expected to hold a closed-door meeting Wednesday to look for ways to maintain the provision of criminal justice services.
Any decisions from the closed meeting would need to be approved by the Port Angeles and Sequim city councils and Clallam County commissioners.
Port Angeles City Attorney Bill Bloor said the purpose of the proposed joint collaboration and confidentiality agreement with Sequim is to allow the two cities to “exchange ideas, strategies and evaluations.”
“This simply is a mechanism to allow those discussions to happen without waiver of anything that would otherwise be covered by the attorney client privilege,” Bloor said.
The council authorized West to sign the agreement with Sequim if necessary without further discussion.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.