"County, city can't come to terms on lawsuit"
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:24 AM
"Port Orchard city officials last week rejected one of the four conditions Kitsap County had laid out regarding a potential court ruling on the proposed $33 million government center.The legal question is whether Port Orchard's status as the Kitsap County seat is threatened because of a proposal calling for shifting nearly 270 county jobs and several county offices to a new, shared governance center in downtown Bremerton.County Administrator Malcolm Fleming said the commissioners expressed disappointment during a July 2 executive session, during which Port Orchard's response and partial rejection were reviewed and discussed. The commissioners are considering their options and are continuing to explore how to work with Port Orchard, Fleming said.When all three commissioners first received a letter dated June 28 from Port Orchard Mayor Jay Weatherill, they weren't sure how to proceed with legal negotiations.In the letter, city officials explained they can't agree the city and county should be bound by a judge's decision on the governance center, and whether its construction and use constitute moving the county seat from Port Orchard to Bremerton.If the city or the county believes that the Superior Court judge has made an incorrect legal ruling, then it would not be right to ignore that fact and agree not to request a higher court to correct the wrong, said Weatherill in the letter. We are hopeful that no appeal would be necessary and that a well-reasoned and legally correct decision would be made as quickly as possible.According to the letter, city officials agreed with the other three conditions crafted by the county earlier this month, including:* both sides will jointly work out the questions to ask the judge;* both sides will agree on a judge to decide the issue in a timely manner; and,* they will establish questions and get issues to the judge within 90 days.Yet in earlier correspondence to the city, Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen specifically stated sticking with the judge's decision was the most important condition to the current negotiation process. Predictably, after her first perusal of the city's letter, Endresen said she was personally disappointed by the city's response. But she added she and the other commissioners want to continue to work with Port Orchard.County Commissioner Jan Angel, who represents both South Kitsap and part of Bremerton, agreed, but also had said she believes the city's request for the right to appeal the judge's decision is reasonable.Also included in the letter to the county, the city requested for the first time that the county not enter into any other agreements regarding the governance center until the Superior Court renders its decision on the matter.County Commissioner Tim Botkin had said he was surprised at this brand-new request, saying that had never been discussed before.Botkin, who has maintained the proposed government center does not constitute moving the county seat from Port Orchard to Bremerton, has worried that the entire planning process could be bogged down significantly in a drawn-out court proceeding in light of the city's letter. "