PORT TOWNSEND — Sheriff David Stanko and challenger Detective Joe Nole disagreed on a number of issues while County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Haas and challenger James Kennedy compared professional backgrounds in a candidate forum.
The forum for candidates running this year drew some 150 people. It was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women.
Ballots for the Aug. 7 primary will be mailed July 18. The general election will be Nov. 6.
Nole has been a detective in the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department for 28 years, serving as a patrol deputy, detective and criminal deputy, and sheriff. Nole was also an undersheriff in the department but was reassigned by Stanko.
“We need change in the sheriff’s office and that’s why I’m running,” Nole explained. “We need strong policing and I’ve practiced that throughout my career.”
He said the department suffers from low morale.
“It makes us less effective, and people have left for other jobs,” he said.
”I have the support of the staff.”
Stanko’s opening remarks immediately targeted Nole’s performance.
“I’ve been your sheriff for the last four years. You elected me to put the sheriff’s house in order. I ran on an platform of assessment, change and community. Assessors found hard-working deputies but operational neglect and dysfunction.
“We had an evidence room that was not inventoried for 20 years. My opponent was in charge of that. We had several pending investigations. My opponent was the acting sheriff. They weren’t done.
“The last four years I’ve had to make tough decisions,” Stanko said. “I’ve had to fire people, demote people, discipline people and reassign them for the organization and the community’s benefit.”
The two candidates disagreed on what information can be shared with the public.
“Everything we do is public and FEMA, terrorism, drug trafficking and human trafficking reduction information is available,” Stanko said.
Nole said that information provided to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol is not public.
“If they weren’t arrested or didn’t commit a crime, then there is no reason for the public to know that. My opponent tries to make it like the Stonegarden grant (program through Homeland Security) is just for human trafficking or terrorism. It’s for those things, but it’s also for finding undocumented immigrants,”Nole said.
”We don’t enforce the immigration law, but we provide the information to the people who do.
“It is helping FEMA, Homeland Security and the Border Patrol find undocumented immigrants,” Nole said.
Stanko and Nole weighed in on their positions of guns in schools. Both agreed that there should not be guns in the schools and teachers should not be armed.
As for gun ranges, the candidates both agreed that indoor gun ranges are the way to go on the issue.
“Our job is to enforce the law and not have an opinion where a gun range should be one way or another,” Nole said.
Haas, the incumbent, pointed to his 30 years as an attorney, 15 as a prosecutor, 11 as a criminal defense attorney, and four years in insurance defense.
“I wanted to bring the office into a more progressive environment for prosecution with a focus on the therapeutic courts: drug, mental health, family therapeutic and juvenile courts,”he said.
”Drug court graduations have doubled over the last administration and we are focusing on the serious cases like sex offenders.”
Kennedy is now a deputy prosecutor in Clallam County where he prosecutes adult felonies in Superior Court. He also worked in Jefferson County where he prosecuted misdemeanors and juvenile crime and felonies in Superior Court. He was an officer in the U.S. Army.
“I’ve had a job that required leadership training and management skills. I led two separate units in Iraq, with 40-70 individuals,” he said. “The type of experience you get is separate from being an attorney. It’s important because when you look at the prosecuting attorney’s office the past three years, management, leadership and administration are what we need the most.
“Turnover has been 150 percent,” Kennedy said. “The office has repeatedly been fined by the court of appeals for not filing briefs on time.
“I have the overwhelming support of our county staff, law enforcement, two chemical dependent agencies, Safe Harbor (Recovery Center) and the support of some of our local defense attorneys.”
Kennedy said that every office has turnover but “when it happens all at once it’s a revolving door.
“Small county governments live off of the institutional knowledge of the employees. That loss hurt the office. The budget has to be collaborative. I have experience managing a budget.”
Haas said when an office loses people, it has a challenge and an opportunity.
“We lost all four attorneys we started out with in a short period of time. I don’t know the full story of why that occurred. I suspect it has something to do with the differences in the way cases should be prosecuted,” Haas said.
“I was elected, in my opinion, to take the office in a progressive direction with a clear emphasis on the therapeutic courts. We brought great people in.
“My opponent, who had three years of experience, was replaced with an attorney with 20 years of experience as an assistant Los Angeles district attorney with gang prosecutions and 17 murder prosecutions under her belt. That was a good thing for Jefferson County.”
The next candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 18 at the Port Ludlow Beach Club, 121 Marina View Drive.
Candidates for the county commissioner District 3 seat are expected to participate: Greg Brotherton, Jon Cooke, Ryan McAlister and Craig Durgan.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].