County official cleared by state AG

Washington State’s Attorney General will not prosecute Kitsap County or its employee Scott Murphy for failure to retain notes pertaining to the possibility of building NASCAR racetrack in the region.

Assistant Attorney General Brian Moran informed Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hauge of the decision in a letter dated Oct. 14.

Murphy welcomed the decision but said, “I never thought I did anything wrong to begin with.”

Hauge requested that AG Rob McKenna’s office investigate the situation. He said he did this immediately because the public would only have faith in an investigation conducted by an outside agency.

“I wanted the investigation in order to show that it went no further,” Hauge said. “I think the county’s handling of public documents is usually very good. We should look at this as an aberration and just move on.”

The investigation resulted from an incident in which Murphy copied certain mapping documents for Kitsap Economic Development Council Executive Director David Porter and neglected to save his notes about the action.

“I feel a sense of vindication,” Porter said. “I never thought Murphy did anything wrong, although I did feel bad about getting him involved. We will all be more circumspect about how we deal with public documents in the future.”

Indianola resident Charlie Burrow, who has repeatedly challenged the county’s disclosure laws, said he was not surprised by the outcome.

“They were trying to keep it as low-key as possible,” he said. “I don’t think they were interested in conducting a serious investigation.”

County Administrator Cris Gears said the incident had caused the county to become more aware of the public disclosure rules, although it is waiting to hear the Attorney General’s updated disclosure guidelines. This includes the development of a written county-wide policy.

“We want to educate all our employees about all the rules and make them understandable,” Gears said. “And we are hoping to explain it all in a one or two page handout.”

Burrow is skeptical.

“These disclosure laws were passed 30 years ago and they are just now getting around to developing a policy,” he said. “It will be interesting to see if they follow through.”

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