The dispute between Wahkiakum County commissioners and the county's two judges could end up in court.
Using federal dollars for court security, District Court Judge Bill Faubion and Superior Court Judge Mike Sullivan have hired two men to serve as part-time bailiffs. One mans the courtroom while court is in session, and the other mans a metal detector station outside the courtroom doors.
On Tuesday, Commissioners Dan Cothren and Blair Brady brought the subject up with Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow. They recounted how they had authorized Judge Faubion to contract with a private company for the security service, but the judges had hired employees. Commissioners had opposed this, saying they didn't want the county to assume the cost of employees and the responsibility of any liability that might arise. A private security company should assume those risks, they said.
The judges, however, maintain they had the right to hire whom they please and that commissioners only have overall budget responsibility, which is limited in this case because the funds come from a federal source and are dedicated to security measures.
When asked what could be done, Bigelow told the board they need to be careful because the issue could end up in a lawsuit.
"This is an area in which you could get sued," he said. "We should be discussing this in executive session.
"If you litigate this with the district court judge, you will have to get separate attorneys, because I've also advised him on this.
"I won't be able to represent both sides."
Commissioners refused to budge from their position.
"I'm still where I'm at," Cothren said.
"We told him to give us options, and we chose the option of hiring the security company," Marsyla said. "Now he's hired his own people."
"I would prefer not to be talking about this in open session," Bigelow said. "Eventually you will get to the point where you will be sued or something.
"You should be talking negotiation, discussing your parameters, in executive session."
Bigelow said he wanted to prepare a memorandum for the officials so that they would have guidelines for working out the issue without going to court.