Perhaps the easiest decision Snohomish County voters face on the Nov. 2 ballot is in the race for Snohomish County prosecutor. Mark Roe, who was appointed to the post a year ago after Janice Ellis resigned to become prosecutor for the Tulalip Tribes, is the clear choice.
At a time of deep budget cuts throughout county government, Roe’s leadership is paying serious dividends. Backed by an office of dedicated deputies, Roe has introduced efficiencies that have dramatically reduced backlogs of criminal cases in an office that has lost approximately 20 positions the past two years.
Deputy prosecutors are also working harder and longer, out of a sense of duty. The example Roe set over 23 years in the office, carrying heavy caseloads while also handling supervisory and other tasks, has no doubt inspired many of them. He isn’t expecting anything of them he wouldn’t do himself.
His attitude toward budget cuts has been realistic. Rather than griping, he has sought innovative ways to get the work done with fewer resources. Tasks that aren’t absolutely necessary have been reduced or eliminated. For example, attorneys are spending far less time copying documents and thumbing through unnecessary pages.
The office has also forged cooperative partnerships with law enforcement agencies. It has started using the probable-cause statements police write rather than having deputy prosecutors prepare their own in every case. A pilot project has the office receiving cases electronically from some police departments, and delivering them that way to defense attorneys too, saving time and reams of paper.
Add to that Roe’s experience handling many of the county’s toughest, most infamous cases, and his statewide reputation as a leading advocate for the compassionate treatment of crime victims, and it’s really no contest.
Roe’s opponent, Jim Kenny, a local fire commissioner who works in the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, disappointed us — and even some of his backers — recently when he raised unfounded suggestions of corruption on Roe’s part.
Kenny’s accusations, that Roe may have given lenient treatment to a suspect in exchange for a campaign contribution from the suspect’s family, were haphazard and irresponsible.
Roe insists he had no knowledge of the case before Kenny brought it up, and a close look shows it was handled just as many similar cases are. The defendant, facing felony drug possession charges (he was arrested with prescription pain medications), was offered an expedited prosecution, a plea agreement that reduced the felony charge to a gross misdemeanor. It’s a common offer made to defendants with no felony history, as was the case here.
We’re confident Roe’s reputation will survive this sleazy attack. Time, and his own future behavior, will determine whether Kenny’s does.