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Friday, November 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County Commissioners expected to rehire heads of public defender’s office, counsel for defense

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 11, 2018

This aerial view of the Spokane County Courthouse shows it Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. The Spokane County Commission is expected to reconfirm Thomas Krzyminski, the director of the public defender’s office, and Scott Mason, the manager of the Counsel for Defense, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
This aerial view of the Spokane County Courthouse shows it Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. The Spokane County Commission is expected to reconfirm Thomas Krzyminski, the director of the public defender’s office, and Scott Mason, the manager of the Counsel for Defense, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane County commissioners will decide Tuesday whether to rehire two men tasked with leading the county’s defense for indigent defendants.

While it will go to a vote during this week’s meeting, the board is expected to unanimously confirm Thomas Krzyminski, the director of the public defender’s office, and Scott Mason, the manager of the Counsel for Defense – an office of six attorneys that takes over cases from the public defender’s office when there is a conflict of interest.

Both were already confirmed last week by the Public Defender Selection Committee – a three-person council comprised of Commissioner Josh Kerns, Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke and Spokane County Bar Association President William Symmes. The committee finalized its decision on Wednesday.

County CEO Gerry Gemmill said a county resolution called for a re-appointment process every four years coinciding with the election year of the county prosecutor, an elected position.

“I’ve worked with both these gentleman and they’re excellent folks to work with,” Gemmill said. “We’re lucky to have them.”

This is Krzyminski’s and Mason’s second time re-applying for their jobs.

“It’s a nice vote of confidence,” said Mason. “I appreciate it.”

Kerns said many people applied for Krzyminski’s position, though only six interviewed. The county did not interview any applicant’s for the counsel of defense, since Kerns said there weren’t enough qualified candidates.

“It’s just a formality tomorrow,” Kerns said Monday. “Tom’s got it. Scott’s got it.”

Earlier this year, Krzyminski, who was not available for comment Monday, and Mason, were forced to halt defense for days at a time under concern their attorneys would exceed state-mandated case load limits. In July the county allowed the public defender’s office to hire two additional attorneys, whose contracts are set to expire at the end of the year.

Mason, who’s office did not originally seek more attorneys, said Monday he was still struggling with high caseloads.

“We’re right at the top right now,” he said. “I asked for another attorney but I didn’t get it.”

In 2016, Krzyminski was accused by former public defender Brooke Hagara of sexism and discrimination when he allegedly passed her up for promotions because she was pregnant. Hagara filed a tort claim, a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a lawsuit against Spokane County.

The county lawsuit was dismissed in March, 2017 while the tort claim and EEOC complaint were both dropped. Kerns declined to comment Monday if Krzyminski’s interview touched on these accusations.

“I can’t discuss anything we talked about in executive session,” he said.

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