The State Attorney General’s Office released an opinion addressing a request made by Interim Grays Harbor County Prosecutor Gerald Fuller.
On December 12, Fuller requested an opinion from the Office related to the process for filling the vacancy caused by the retirement of former prosecutor, Stew Menefee.
The Attorney General’s Office said that the Constitution requires the Grays Harbor County Commissioners to select an appointee from a list of three candidates nominated by the Grays Harbor Democrats. According to the opinion, the Constitution states that “the person appointed to fill the vacancy must be from . . . the same political party as the [person] whose office has been vacated, and shall be one of three persons who shall be nominated by the county central committee of that party.”
The Grays Harbor Democratic Party submitted a list of three nominees to the Grays Harbor County Commissioners on October 4. On October 24, the county commissioners selected Montesano attorney Vini Samuel from that list. Samuel formally declined the position. The party then requested the governor make the appointment from the two remaining nominees.
Commissioner Frank Gordon announced on December 9 that the party must submit a new list of nominees or the Commission would select its own from outside the list provided by the party.
Fuller submitted a request for an Attorney General’s opinion, asking: “May the County Commissioners pick an individual not on a list supplied by the local county Democratic Party?”
The Attorney General’s Office informal opinion states that the Grays Harbor County Commissioners may not appoint an individual who is not on the list.
The opinion points to Washington’s Constitution, which states that when a vacancy occurs in a partisan, county elective office, the vacancy must be filled by a person of the same political party. The Constitution further says the nominee must be chosen from a list of three provided to the commission by the county political party.
“There are no exceptions to these requirements.”