Prosecutor candidates make their case to county bar assoc.

Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly, center, answers a question asked at the prosecutor candidate forum June 18. Kelly is challenged by Lauren Erickson, right, and Larry Freedman, left.

The three candidates for Clallam County Prosecutor spent an hour Friday answering questions posed by members of the Clallam County Bar Association.

Clallam County Prosecutor Deb Kelly and her two opponents, former deputy prosecutor Lauren Erickson and Sequim lawyer Larry Freedman, answered a series of questions on the prosecutor's office, criminal prosecution policy and employee relations.

In her opening statement Erickson, a Democrat, said Kelly's office has structural, organizational and leadership issues she would address as prosecutor.

Erickson said the prosecutor's office impedes open government by giving bad legal advice on public records requests. Erickson said she submitted a public records request asking for the legal fees the county has paid in an age discrimination lawsuit against the prosecutor's office. She was told the information was attorney-client privilege, she said.

"Every lawyer in this room knows legal fees are not attorney-client privilege," she said.

Erickson said she eventually was given the records, which showed the county has spent $400,000 defending the prosecutor's office in the case.

Kelly, a Republican, responded in her opening statement that Erickson was "misleading" in her allegations. The public records request wasn't handled by her office, she said.

She pointed to the 90-percent conviction rate, support of teen and adult drug court, and new bad-check program as evidence of her office's success.

But Erickson and Freedman, also a Democrat, attacked Kelly for the high turnover within the office, citing bad management.

"I frankly do not agree with the way this office is being run," Freedman said, adding that 27 people left or were fired from the prosecutor's office during the past four years.

Freedman said the office, which has 11 attorneys, has had 32 attorneys leave since Kelly was elected to office.

"I'm not going to apologize for having high standards," Kelly responded.

Kelly said many people left because of personal reasons or better job offers and some were fired.

Freedman said the turnover causes disruption and delay in handling cases.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," he said.

The forum was moderated by Steve Methner, president of the Port Angeles Rotary.

Amanda Winters can be reached at

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