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MONDAY, JUNE 21, 2010, 5:54 P.M.

Goldmark takes fight with McKenna to Supremes

OLYMPIA – The fight between the state’s top land manager and its top attorney is headed to its top court.

Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said Monday he will ask the state Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, essentially ordering Attorney General Rob McKenna to appeal an eminent domain ruling by the Okanogan County Superior Court.

Attorneys from McKenna’s office represented the Department of Natural Resources, which last month lost a legal battle with the Okanogan Public Utilities District over state school trust land the utility district wants for a power line corridor in the Methow Valley. The state argued that cutting a corridor through the land would lower its value, increase fire risks and management costs; the court granted the PUD use of the land with annual lease payments.

McKenna said his office wouldn’t handle the appeal after reviewing the case and assessing the chances for winning.

Goldmark accused McKenna of refusing “to stand up for Washington schools.” McKenna, a Republican, responded that Goldmark, a Democrat, was inserting politics into a legal decision.

Goldmark now wants the Supreme Court to rule whether McKenna is legally required to handle the appeal for a state agency, and has an attorney handling that case pro bono. McKenna’s office filed an appeal contingent on the Supreme Court ruling – it will continue the case if the high court rules for Goldmark, but drop it if the writ of mandamus is rejected.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat who previously served as attorney general, refused to weigh in on the dispute between two other statewide elected officials.

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