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Spokane County Clerk

The county clerk is the administrative and financial officer for the state superior court of the county and is responsible for court records, including entry of all orders, judgments and decrees issued by the court. The county clerk provides a number of services in connection with the court system, including maintaining court records and exhibits, administering oaths, managing the jury system, acting as a quasi-judicial officer for the issuance of writs and subpoenas, and providing citizens with access to public court records. The county clerk also has certain non-court functions such as holding bonds for public officials and keeping records for certain special purpose districts.

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Tim Fitzgerald (Rep) Spokane County Clerk

Biographical Information

Party Preference Republican
Experience (Max 350 characters) I have been your County Clerk for over 4 years. I have substantially modernized the office. I am the Director of Legislation for the Clerks Association for 3 years, having two bills passed. Previously I spent 30 years in the Marine Corps retiring as a Colonel. Last tour was as Chief of Staff for all Nato forces in Southern Afghanistan.
Town where you live Deer Park, WA

Why did you decide to run for this office?

Simply stated, there is no higher calling than serving our community and the public. I have been a public servant all my life. With my extensive leadership, management and organizational experience I can make a positive difference to the Criminal Justice System. The Clerk's office is a dynamic complex operation, and I enjoy the challenge of making my office one of the best in providing friendly customer service for our community. I have the right skills, temperament and leadership to run this office very effectively which my past four years will demonstrate. My ability to work with all the stakeholders in the court house has been crucial to our success in making a difference. Relationships are critical and this is one area I have excelled in as your County Clerk.

What qualifies you for this office?

The Clerks Office requires extensive leadership, management and organizational skills. During my career as a Marine Corps officer I commanded at all levels from flight leader, to squadron commander (600 personnel in my squadron) to task force commander in combat. Additionally, I held top level staff jobs such as Director of Operations for a 55,000 person force. I was responsible for coordinating the manning, training and equipping of this force. I was Chief of Staff for a 440 person coalition staff directing the operations of a 43,000 person NATO/Coalition force in Southern Afghanistan. The staff I directed handled administrative, logistical, operational, financial, planning, and legal matters to name a few. I run my office as a CEO would run a large complex business. The Clerk's Office is executive level management/leadership and that is what I have brought to the office the past four years.

What is your experience with handling records as required by law?

My experience is significant. I have been the County Clerk for four years. When I took over we had 238,463 legal records. I maintain records dating back to 1878. I told my Archives Division that I wanted all the legal files digitized. So we made a plan, budgeted for the equipment, and then completed the the electronic copying of all the legal records. This not only preserved the records, but eliminated storage costs saving the county money. Furthermore, I draft a standard operating procedure (SOP) manual to direct the staff on how to handle confidential records and sealed records. Furthermore, as the legislators update or change the laws (RCWs) I can change my SOP in a timely manner to ensure no loss of confidential or private information maintained in the legal records. Finally, I have established procedures to protect all confidential information in records that are also partially designed as public records.

What are the three major issues facing the office of Clerk?

1. First issue is the implementation and transition to the new state wide Case Management System. 2. Second issue is Electronic filing. 3. The final issue is a salary increase for my folks.

How do you intend to address these issues?

1. The new Case Management System is called Odyssey. This will be the largest electronic modernization effort for the legal system in 20 years. I have established a comprehensive manning, training and equipping program a year ago to get my office ready for this transition. Furthermore I established a detailed budget and training plan to make the transition successful. Finally I briefed all stakeholders on the challenges and impacts of this program so all are in the loop and aware of what is happening. 2. Electronic filing is the future of the document management workflow process for the county especially with the document volume we have to handle. I have budgeted money over a year ago to purchase the proper equipment to enable us to make this transition. 3. The most important asset in my office are my people. I have worked for two years on getting a salary increase. I will continue this comprehensive effort as we prepare the budget for next year, after our successful 2018 budget.

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Michael A. Kirk (Dem) Writer, Editor, Former Lay Minister, At-Home Parent

Biographical Information

Party Preference The Democratic Party
Experience (Max 350 characters) People-oriented service, 16 years; Budgeting and Administration, 9 years; Ecclesiastical record keeping, 8 years; Canon law casework, 2 years
Campaign Phone (509) 818-0802
Campaign Email michael@kirkforclerk.com
Town where you live Spokane, WA
Twitter @kirkforclerk

Why did you decide to run for this office?

I came to believe someone needed to run for County Clerk when I discovered that the incumbent had violated a court order in his first months in office. After the women I attempted to recruit to run both declined, I filed myself. Since then, I've learned about the hostile work environment currently polluting the Clerk's office and the need for more attention to criminal justice reform on the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council. Service has always been my vocation, and since my teenage years, I've lived it out, serving communities of thousands managing facilities, budgets, staff, and teams of dozens of volunteers. Since my family settled in Spokane, I've been committed to making a more just, welcoming, and equitable society here in our community. Among other things, I have organized and moderated the Spokane Anti-Hate Summit among police, elected officials, and community members. Now, it's time to work with our judges, commissioners, prosecutor, and sheriff to accomplish still more.

What qualifies you for this office?

Prior to starting my family in Spokane with my wife Noelle, a psychologist, criminologist, and Marine Corps veteran, and our daughter Thea, who was born at Valley Hospital, I spent about fifteen years in youth and family ministry and parish administration. I developed, improved, and fought for budgets, I planned and implemented training programs, and I recruited, trained, and led staff and volunteers, all experiences I believe are directly translatable to public service. There are always limited funds and human resources, my training in people-oriented management empowers me to help employees apply their strengths to present challenges. My graduate training in Systematics will also enable me to properly analyze and prioritize the needs of the public, the civil servants, and the technological needs of the mission at-hand without losing sight of the higher principles, like the Constitution, we are called to serve.

What is your experience with handling records as required by law?

During my fifteen years in youth and family ministry I was also trained as a canon law case assistant. I received and processed complicated legal files, ensuring that all of the documentation necessary for a successful tribunal hearing were included, completed, and labeled accurately. My cohort and I had to go through four months of training before being allowed to handle a case. I know that a file even slightly mislabeled can be lost; with a digital system, it could be lost forever. I understand the attention to detail and continuing education that is required to ensure that clerks and process clerks are kept competent and confident in completing the ever-evolving rules and requirements of the Superior Court. And I’m committed to ensuring that the Clerk’s office, through improved training becomes and remains imminently dependable for the court system and the people of Spokane County.

What are the three major issues facing the office of Clerk?

The incumbent’s predecessor required three months of training and shadowing before a clerk could handle evidence or documents on their own. That training period is now down to two weeks. Some of those doing the training, themselves have less than six months experience. Now with no Deputy Clerk to train new supervisors, there are further holes in the training and development process. Long-tenured experienced employees could help mitigate this downturn, but fully half of the staff that the incumbent inherited have retired or left for other jobs in the last four years, a disturbing rate of attrition. With the downward trajectory of experience and training, loss of files and evidence is a matter of when, not if, if it hasn’t been happening already. The incumbent also divides his time with Veterans Court, which is not in his jurisdiction or duties. He touts his work on LFO reform but with few results; I’m comfortable saying justice reforms are a higher priority for me than the incumbent.

How do you intend to address these issues?

The tiny training time of the workers who receive, log, file, and preserve the evidence and documents of our courts is priority number 1. I will start surveying the clerks and processors to identify shortfalls. By the end of 2019, every Clerk’s office employee will have renewed training, keeping our court system functional. At this critical point when staff experience is depleted, investing in tech and experienced employees remaining in the office is more vital than cutting budget. I will fight for the funds to implement the two-years-overdue Odyssey file system and retain the experienced employees necessary to the functioning of the office. The hours available to work with clerks, processors, judges and other court officers need to be maximized. In my ministry career, I compiled a track record of investing time beyond my work hours and duties into the needs of my community. With me, the people of Spokane County will rest assured that I will work hard for justice on and off the clock.