By Kara Davidson
Gazette Reporter 

Pullman-county court agreement expired in 2012


January 10, 2019

Commissioner Art Swannack Monday commented in a workshop session that he believes Pullman's mayor and city council did not fully understand all the requirements and facts involved in their decision to not allow district court sessions in its new city hall. Swannack reported on a luncheon meeting he had with Mayor Glenn Johnson last Thursday.

Pullman's current plan for its new city hall is to not include use of the city council chamber as a district court room.

“I just think this is something they didn't have all the info they needed to make a full decision on what they had to do to prioritize,” Swannack commented.

The city hall will be relocated in the former Encounter Ministries Center as part of a $10.5 million project which was approved by Pullman voters in a special election last February.

The formal agreement for the county to provide district court sessions for Pullman actually expired in 2012. Swannack noted the arrangement has continued since then on what amounted to a "handshake agreement" between Gary Petrovich, county administrator, and Pullman Chief Gary Jenkins.

The contract calls for the county to provide all services for prosecution, indigents defense, adjudication, sentencing and incarceration for misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses committed by adults in the City of Pullman. The contract extended from 2008 until 2012.

For the first year, Pullman agreed to pay $311,553 which was calculated on the prior year's total cost plus a 3.3 percent consumer price index increase with subsequent annual increases based on the same format.

Payment has been done in quarterly installments. Swannack noted the fee went to $347,000 for 2012 and has remained at that level for the past six years.

Swannack noted Whitman County and the City of Pullman would need a new formal agreement in the future, and Pullman would be required to have a municipal court if it does not provide chambers for district court to do the municipal court work for Pullman.

In addition to the district court contract, the county and Pullman also have had a lease agreement which provides space for court offices and use of the courtroom. Under terms of the lease agreement, the county waives filing charges for municipal court matters which are brought before the court. These include violations such as parking which are part of the Pullman city codes.

“They didn't understand, I think, that they were obligated to do municipal court if they didn't have an agreement with us to do it,” Swannack commented Monday.

Swannack said he provided copies of the expired inter-local agreement and the indigent defense contract and its amendments to the mayor who forwarded them to Pullman's city administrator and city attorney.

“I was trying to just convey some info to them,” stated Swannack.

The county has been advised in the past year that Pullman might drop the district court sessions as a part of their move to a new city hall site.

Swannack said Tuesday he has been tasked with getting a formal statement on which course of action plans to undertake by the end of this month.

Under state requirements, the county would have to convene a special district court commission to develop a revised plan for court districts in the event Pullman opts to drop the present agreement. The special panel would be required to come up with a report by March 15, and the county commissioners would have to approve the plan by May 1.

“There's a whole bunch of issues there that are not just ours, they're the court's and the prosecutor's to deal with,” Swannack commented Monday.


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