By Tim Rasmussen
Several people have asked me what will happen over the issue of the commissioner’s expenditure of homelessness funds that the State Auditor has labeled an unlawful “gifting”. First of all, I don’t know very much about what will happen in any situation. (If I did, I might go to the casino regularly.) I do know there are various options to consider to fulfill my obligations to the Constitution and the citizens of Stevens County to address this breach of the public trust. Like any situation where crimes have been committed, there is financial and personal accountability that must be addressed. That is my duty.
An ex parte judicial proceeding is one where the opposing party has not received notice of it, nor is present. Ex parte hearings, petitions or motions are most common in temporary matters such as restraining orders or temporary protection or custody orders pending a formal hearing. They are also common in criminal cases when the defendant needs to hire an expert or investigator to explore some aspect of the case. Usually, ex parte orders are only available where one side has a clear right to the relief they seek and it does not prejudice the other party.
Ex parte motions are only allowed in limited circumstances because they cut across the bedrock legal principal of a right to notice and an opportunity to be heard. The rights of Due Process and Fundamental Fairness dictate that parties who are being affected be given a right to know about the proceedings and to respond.
Last week, I became aware the commissioners had filed an ex parte motion asking the court to appoint an attorney for them at public expense, claiming I cannot represent them because I have a conflict. I agree I cannot advise them personally because I represent the county, but the law is clear that officials are not entitled to an attorney at public expense to defend them personally in matters where they have personal liability such as the misuse of public funds.
Because there is no authority for the commissioners to obtain an attorney at public expense, or by doing so in an ex parte fashion, I filed a response asking to be heard. I then filed a full responsive brief in opposition to an appointment of an attorney at public expense. It is available as a public record to anyone.
Our Superior Court judges, Reeves and Monasmith, asked for a judge from Spokane to hear the motions and Judge Moreno has been assigned. As I said at the beginning, I don’t know what will happen in many situations, but I will find out as time goes by.