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Commissioners issue state of Clallam County report

February 20th, 2013 - 6:21am

(Port Angeles) -- Clallam County officials issued a "state of the county" report Tuesday.

In it, county commissioners say they've been able to address tough budget times, but are still searching for ways to deal with future issues. Commissioners say they don't plan to ask for new taxes at this time.

County employment is down by about 33 full-time employees since 2009, due to retirement and some people leaving.

But the biggest budget issue is in law and justice, where costs continue to rise.

County commissioner Mike Chapman chairs the commission this year.

"Law and justice costs are a primary service of the county," said Chapman. "I'm not overly concerned that we are spending money on providing that for the community. However, we need to find ways to continue to provide the services and control the budget where we can."

A major issue before the County is the expense of a team of death-penalty, defense attorneys representing accused double murderer Darold Stenson. Stenson awaits a retrial for the killing of his wife and business partner in 1993 near Sequim. His conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court last year.

But prosecutors have dropped the death penalty in the retrial and some feel Stenson could be represented by a single public defender as is usually the case for local murder cases. The cost for his current team has already hit 200-thousand dollars out of the county's general fund.

Chapman didn't want to comment on this particular case:

"As a commissioner, that's not in my purview, that's up to the courts," said Chapman. "We have a good working relationship with the public defenders' office and we are obligated to provide defense services for those who can't afford it. We have a $1 million contingency fund for capital murder cases set aside this year and we may have to spend some of that."

The defense representation decision will come from a Clallam County Superior Court judge if he deems it prudent to make a change.

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