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Thursday, June 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Adams County Prosecutor Faces Recall Offensive Foes Charge Sandhaus Mismanages; He Faults ‘Corrupt Political Machine’

By Associated Press

Adams County Prosecutor David Sandhaus is the target of a recall campaign.

Sandhaus, who has been prosecutor since 1994, has been in a long feud with other officials in the rural county over budget and other issues.

On Friday, public defender Dennis Morgan, Ritzville businessman Douglas Heimbigner and Othello attorney Steve Sackmann filed documents seeking a recall election.

The papers contend Sandhaus failed to perform his duties, overspent his budget and neglected to obtain a required bond.

“What you have here is a premeditated attempt to slander me in order to gain a political objective,” Sandhaus said. “That objective is get out this prosecutor who is too independent. I’m not the issue. The issue is a corrupt political machine.”

“I think Mr. Sandhaus didn’t listen to county commissioners when we tried to tell him a few things,” Commissioner Bill Wills said. “Now maybe he’ll listen to the vote of the people.”

The document also claims Sandhaus refused to provide legal counsel and advice to county officials.

Ron Newton, who co-owns an automotive shop with Heimbigner, said he supports the recall movement because he feels Sandhaus is “ripping off the county.”

Sandhaus spends too much time trying minor cases that should be plea-bargained, Newton said.

Sandhaus said he’s an aggressive prosecutor and some people don’t like that.

The papers filed Friday also contend Sandhaus overspent his 1996 budget by $7,642, after commissioners warned him not to do so.

At Sandhaus’ request, the state Auditor’s Office reviewed his expenditures last month. It determined he did overspend his budget, with the money reportedly going for office supplies, payroll and maintenance.

Commissioners tried in February to file a claim against Sandhaus’ bond, only to discover he had failed to obtain one when he took office in July 1994. By law, all elected officials must obtain a $5,000 bond to insure their job performance.

Sandhaus eventually obtained the bond, but commissioners have been unable to collect on it.

Some county employees say they are unable to work well with Sandhaus.

Superior Court Clerk Bob Blair estimated Sandhaus had filed about 70 affidavits of prejudice against Richard Miller, the county’s only Superior Court judge. An affidavit of prejudice indicates the attorney does not believe the judge is capable of being fair during a trial.

Sandhaus is the first prosecutor to ever a file an affidavit of prejudice against an Adams County Superior Court judge, Blair said.

Because Miller is the only judge, every time an affidavit of prejudice was filed, the court would have to pay for a visiting judge to hear the case, Blair said.

Three deputy prosecutors and five other workers have quit their jobs at the prosecutor’s office during Sandhaus’ term.

“He can’t keep anybody there. He’s a nut,” said former deputy prosecutor Paul Szott, who quit in June 1996, just nine months after he started.

Szott filed a complaint against Sandhaus with the bar association, alleging Sandhaus unethically charges defendants. Szott declined to discuss the complaint in detail, but said it’s still under investigation.

Such accusations are part of a smear campaign, Sandhaus charged. “They’ve got to make me look like a nut, a wacko, because they have no legal base (for the recall),” Sandhaus said.

The prosecutor has his defenders. Deputy prosecutor Cecilia Cervantes said many people are glad Sandhaus is in office.

“He’s put more people in jail since he’s been here than have been put in jail in the last 10 years,” she said.

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