Kelly maintains function of Prosecutor's Office is fine
by AMANDA WINTERS
Larry Freedman, a Sequim attorney running for Clallam County prosecutor, took his gloves off for a Oct. 13 debate against incumbent Deb Kelly.
Kelly, a Republican, is seeking her third term in office.
The debate was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Clallam County at the
Sequim Senior Activity Center.
Freedman, a Democrat, started by pointing out the high turnover in Kelly's office - 30 people have left over the past four years and the office only has 21 positions to fill, he said.
"There's nothing close to it in the state," he said, adding he believes the office is being mismanaged.
"With that kind of turnover could you run a business?" he said. "No."
Kelly said the turnover largely has been due to normal life events like family, health or leaving when better opportunities arose. She also fired people who didn't meet her standards, she said.
Next Freedman turned to a hostile work environment and age discrimination lawsuit brought against Kelly's office, which has cost more than $400,000 in legal fees for the county so far, he said.
Delays in trials are also a problem, not only because they leave criminals on the street ready to re-offend while they wait for trial but also because of the emotional stress they put on people who are innocent and have to wait, sometimes for years, to prove their innocence, he said.
Kelly said judges are responsible for the delays in trials, not her office.
"Judges are the ones who allow continuances ... it's up to the judges to say, 'No, it's time for this case to go to trial,'" she said.
Kelly said she remembers one instance where someone was being tried for solicitation for murder. One of the witnesses was pregnant, another was a long-haul truck driver and a third was very reluctant to testify, she said. It was difficult to get all three to appear and when they did, the defense attorney asked for a continuance so he could referee a basketball tournament, which the judge granted, she said.
"That is what we have to deal with every day," she said.
Freedman brought up a box of evidence that wasn't made known to a defense attorney until the Friday evening before the trial began and the 14 counts of mishandling evidence by her office that led to the state Court of Appeals reversing the murder conviction of Robert Covarrubias.
"Law enforcement didn't give us a box of evidence that was sitting in Olympia," Kelly said.
On the Covarrubias issue, she said her office "gave evidence to them right away and the defense complained about it."
Kelly was asked how she would remedy problems with judges and law enforcement to ensure trials moved along quickly.
"I can't remedy judges who won't do what they should do," she said.
Freedman said he doesn't accept that everything else is bad and the prosecutor's office is perfect.
"The buck stops at the desk of the prosecutor," he said.