Decision on government center delayed

A court decision that could shape the future of a regional government center proposed for downtown Bremerton has been postponed.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Berschauer decided Friday, Nov. 9, he has neither the jurisdiction nor the authority to hear the government center case.

Berschauer was set to hear the case in early December, but he cited court cases that interpret a fairly new state law detailing how counties can be sued as justification for not hearing arguments.

Shortly after Berschauer handed down his decision, Sue Tanner of the county Prosecutor’s Office and Port Orchard attorney Loren Combs decided to file the government center case in Pierce County Superior Court.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bruce W. Cohoe is scheduled to hear the case at a date to be determined.

“We need some more information at this point,” said Kitsap County Administrator Malcolm Fleming. “Both parties went into this seeking a speedy resolution, and we can hope this decision won’t delay the case too much.”

Others still wonder how long the process will take.

“Obviously, some additional time will be required on this,” Port Orchard City Councilman John Clauson said. “Just how much, we’re not sure, yet the upcoming holiday season doesn’t help expedite the process.

“This is unfortunate,” he added.

Tanner said she didn’t believe Berschauer’s real motivation was to extricate himself from a controversial case, since judges in Thurston County routinely hear government-related cases that almost always are appealed.

After reviewing the case, Bershcauer told the attorneys he just ruled in favor of a more conservative line of court decisions interpreting jurisdictional law.

Kitsap County has proposed shifting about 265 county jobs, along with all or parts of several county offices, from Port Orchard to a new Bremerton government center. Departments slated to move include the offices of administrative services, administrator, assessor, auditor, county commissioners, community development, personnel and human services, prosecutor and treasurer.

Port Orchard officials have called the proposal a de facto move of the county seat from Port Orchard to Bremerton, because the offices and personnel listed for the shift are integral to the primary operations of county government. They also worry the move could mean lost revenue streams for the city.

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