City's lawsuit against county moved

A court decision that could shape the future of the regional government center proposed for downtown Bremerton has been postponed.

Thurston County Superior court Judge Daniel J. Berschauer decided on Friday, Nov. 9, he has neither the jurisdiction nor the authority to hear the government center case.

In the decision, Berschauer cited a specific line of court cases that interpret a fairly new state law detailing how counties can be sued.

Shortly after Berschauer handed down his decision, Kitsap County attorney Sue Tanner and Port Orchard attorney Loren Combs opted to file the government center case in Pierce County Superior Court.

That was relatively easy, since doing so just required transferring briefs and other agreed-upon paperwork from court to court.

With Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bruce W. Cohoe scheduled to hear the case, only a court date must be set.

In Thurston County Superior Court, the government center case was set to be heard in early December.

Now the wait is on.

“We need some more information at this point,” said Kitsap County Administrator Malcolm Fleming. “Both parties went into this seeking a speedy resolution, and we can hope this decision won’t delay the case too much.”

Tanner says the case shouldn’t be held up too long, since work already finished doesn’t have to be redone.

“It’s just a matter of getting the court date set,” she said.

Even so, others still wonder how long the process will take.

“Obviously, some additional time will be required on this,” said Port Orchard City Councilman John Clauson. “Just how much, we’re not sure, yet the upcoming holiday season doesn’t help expedite the process.

“This is unfortunate,” he added.

When asked, Tanner said she didn’t believe Berschauer tried to extricate himself from a controversial case, since judges in Thurston County routinely hear government-related cases that are almost always appealed.

After reviewing the case, Bershcauer told the attorneys he just ruled in favor of a more conservative line of court case decisions interpreting jurisdiction law.

Kitsap County has discussed shifting about 265 county jobs along with several county offices, in whole or in part from Port Orchard to the government center proposed for Bremerton. County departments slated for some type of move include the offices of administrative services, administrator, assessor, auditor, county commissioners, community development, personnel and human services, prosecutor and treasurer.

Port Orchard worries the proposal is a de facto move of the county seat from Port Orchard to Bremerton because the offices and personnel listed for the shift are integral to the primary operations of county government. They also worry the move could mean lost revenue streams for the city.

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