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Inslee appoints one Stevens County commissioner following ouster

The Stevens County Courthouse in Colville is seen in January 2019.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
The Stevens County Courthouse in Colville is seen in January 2019. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The police chief of Chewelah will serve as Stevens County commissioner starting Monday, following an appointment by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The other two positions will be filled by elected board members, ending the terms of interim board members appointed after the all-Republican panel was ousted by court order earlier this year for misusing money intended to assist the homeless.

Mark Burrows was named commissioner to replace Don Dashiell, who along with Wes McCart and Steve Parker left office at the end of August following a court order. McCart won re-election and has secured a public office bond to take the oath of office after election results are certified Tuesday. Greg J. Young, a former jail sergeant with the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office, also won election and will be sworn in.

Stevens County sought the advice of the Municipal Research & Services Center, based in Seattle, to inquire about Burrows’ status as Chewelah Police chief after his appointment, said Tim Rasumussen, the county’s elected prosecutor. He said Burrows will transition out of the position in Chewelah and into his commissioner role by the beginning of 2021.

Inslee chose to appoint just one member of the commission, although he’d been given recommendations for two by the local Republican Party, which named Burrows as their top choice for the District 2 seat.

Had Inslee not made a choice, state law would have dictated McCart and Young choose their colleague. McCart said Thursday he wasn’t concerned about the process, just that commissioners be allowed to get to work establishing a 2021 budget and allocating federal coronavirus assistance money, which must be spent by Dec. 30.

“I’m not about to try and outguess what the governor was thinking,” McCart said. “It is what it is. The appointment’s made.”

Burrows and Young could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday. A spokesman for Inslee’s office confirmed the appointment made, and the one not made, in an email Thursday.

The interim board was made up of seven of the county’s elected officials, and held its final official day of service in Colville on Thursday. County Auditor Lori Larsen said those lawmakers were notified Friday of the governor’s appointment of Burrows, effective a day before the interim board is to be disbanded per Inslee’s previous order.

“It did throw us all for a loop. I won’t lie,” she said.

Mitch Short, the chairman of the Stevens County Republican Party, said it was “a little frustrating” that Inslee delayed his action until after a 30-day window he believed was outlined in the state Constitution to hand down the appointments. The effective date of the appointment of Burrows also throws into question the certification of the election results, which require action by the sitting commission chair.

Short said he hoped there wouldn’t be a legal challenge of the process.

“This county’s been through enough,” he said.

That interim board also included Rasmussen, who sued the sitting commissioners following a state auditor’s report that found the payments totaling $121,000 were impermissible gifts of state funds. Both men said Thursday they believed the legal dispute wouldn’t influence their working relationship moving forward.

“I’m willing to work with the prosecutor,” McCart said. “My hope and desire is that he will return that favor.”

“I don’t have any animosity toward him. Never did,” Rasmussen said. “I was doing my job.”

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