Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Haas has returned to his office after sustaining a heart attack in early September. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Haas has returned to his office after sustaining a heart attack in early September. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Jefferson County prosecutor’s office triage over following Michael Haas’ recovery from heart attack

Office had focused only on criminal matters while prosecuting attorney was on medical leave.

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s office is back providing all civil services after the top prosecutor’s return to work following a heart attack, said Prosecuting Attorney Michael Haas and County Commissioner David Sullivan.

On Sept. 12, Haas sent an email to the commissioners saying that his office would not deal with certain civil matters, such as department contract reviews or public records requests.

Haas was out on medical leave at the time after having a heart attack Sept. 4. He has since been cleared for work.

According to Haas, he had told his office to focus on criminal cases that he deemed the most important at the time. The commissioners did not react favorably to this news when it was presented to them at a meeting Sept. 12.

“It was a concern for awhile,” said Philip Morley, county administrator. “They provide a very necessary function for the county.”

Haas said that commissioners originally thought the move would be in effect indefinitely.

He said that was a misunderstanding.

“Looking back on the memo I sent the commissioners, I wasn’t as clear as I could’ve been,” Haas said, “though I was recovering from a heart attack.”

“We were in triage mode for awhile,” Haas said. “That’s fair to say. I looked at what we had on the table at the time and we had some very similar criminal cases that we thought were the most important at the time.”

Since he returned to work Monday, the office has returned to business as usual, according to Haas, and the commissioners and Haas have continued negotiations on a salary for a vacant attorney position.

Tensions arose last week between the county commissioners and Haas over a potential pay raise for a currently unfilled civil attorney position. The position was held by David Alvarez until June, when he left to take a position in the Clallam County Prosecutor’s Office.

“His requests aren’t unreasonable, but we have to look at them in the context of the overall budget,” Sullivan said. “As far as I know, they have resumed all duties, but I know they’re challenged since they don’t have all positions filled.”

Sullivan said Haas wanted to raise the salary for the open position in order to draw better candidates and generate more interest in the open position.

However, according to Sullivan, the commissioners have hired a research firm to find them some qualified candidates.

“We can afford that since it’s a one-time expense,” Sullivan said. “It’s the ongoing expenses that the county struggles with and we’re already working with a smaller staff than in 2010.”

Despite that, Sullivan said the commissioners are not ruling out the possibility of raising the salary if it is needed to find or keep a quality candidate. According to Haas, the commissioners did concede a small raise for the position to attract viable candidates.

“They have a responsibility to the budget and I have a responsibility to make sure we have qualified attorneys,” Haas said. “So there’s a little tension there but that’s just built into the system.”

The County Prosecutor’s Office provides legal advice for the county on everything from potential litigation to tribal relations to employment law and public records compliance.

“Every department relies on them for legal advice,” Sullivan said.

“It’s a complicated job because every department is going to need something different. The needs of the treasurer are very different from the needs of the commissioners or the other county departments.”


Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at

More in News

Judy Willman, daughter of University of Washington rowing team member Joe Rantz, signs a movie poster for the movie “The Boys in the Boat,” a tribute to the team’s rise to winning a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Spotlight on ‘The Boys in the Boat’

Story with Sequim tie has advance screening

A two-bedroom, 800-swuare-foot home is among the free plans offered by the City of Port Angeles.
Port Angeles offers free pre-approved stock plans

City hopes to reduce time, costs of housing construction

Port Angeles aims to spur development

City waives certain building permit fees for 15 housing types

Man involved in Thursday wreck dies in Silverdale

The 79-year-old Sequim man involved in Thursday’s two-vehicle wreck… Continue reading

Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News

James Kingland enjoying his favorite place in Port Townsend along the waterfront on Friday morning. Kingland goes there often to reflect on his life and for the inner peace he extr
Home Fund helps man get back on his feet

‘It allowed me to move forward without feeling like I was just lost’

EYE ON THE PENINSULA: Parks fees, public health before county board

Government meetings across the North Olympic Peninsula

Sequim High School Interact Club students pose in front of Seattle's SIFF Cinema Downtown before a screening of  "The Boys in the Boat" on Thursday.
Sequim students attend Seattle screening of “The Boys in the Boat’

Forty-five members of the Sequim High School Interact Club attended… Continue reading

Traffic backs up on Monroe Road because of an automobile wreck near the intersection with U.S. Highway 101 on Thursday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
One wreck, two locations in East Port Angeles

Crash backs up traffic for miles Thursday morning

Golf course lease to be considered

Port Townsend City Council on verge of new pact

Clallam County adopts construction program

Twenty projects total $8.8 million in 2024

State lawmakers begin to drop bills ahead of upcoming session

Insulin, public defense funds, gift cards topics featured so far