The drama at the Deschutes District Attorney's Office continued this past week as D.A. elect Patrick Flaherty informed Chief Deputy Prosecutor Darryl Nakahira that Flaherty would be terminating his employment when he takes office in January.
Flaherty who has kept a low profile since defeating long time D.A. and his former boss, Mike Dugan, in a bitterly contested primary, sent a tersely worded letter to Nakahira last week informing him of the decision.
"I have not heard from you since the election," Flaherty wrote in a letter dated Aug. 17 on his law firm's letterhead.
"As a courtesy, I am writing to advise you that when I take in (sic) office in January 2011 I will not employ you in any capacity," wrote Flaherty, who could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Nakahira who has been with the prosecutors office for nearly 20 years and prosecuted some of the area's most high profile criminal cases has served as the right hand man for long time district attorney Mike Dugan. That relationship apparently did not sit well with Flaherty, a former chief deputy prosecutor and colleague in Dugan's office. Specifically, Flaherty says that Nakahira's position as chief deputy and his role in Dugan's campaign led Flaherty to believe he does not wish to work under Flaherty.
"However, I just want to make certain that you are not under any impression that might cause you to delay seeking other employment," Flaherty wrote.
The decision to dismiss Nakahira has apparently rankled Dugan, who is still serving out his final term. The D.A. told the Bulletin that he didn't understand why Flaherty was letting go of some of the best prosecutors in the state, a reference to speculation that Flaherty intends to dismiss additional staff from the office. While Flaherty has yet to formally announce any changes beyond the letter to Nakahira, deputy district attorneys have been in a state of limbo since the May primary which effectively sealed Flaherty's hold on the office since there was no Republican challenger. Rather than wait for Flaherty, the deputy district attorneys opted to be proactive, petitioning to form a union within the office, which would ostensibly prevent Flaherty from clearing house.
However, the effort to formalize the union has been slowed by the unwillingness of some employees to sign on without a formal vote. Deputy D.A. Wells Ashby has said that he doesn't think a union is necessary for the D.A.'s office and its employees to execute their mission. But it's worth noting that Ashby is himself running for election in November when he has a run-off race with local attorney Thomas Hill to fill a vacancy on the Deschutes County District Court bench. The race is non-partisan, however, Ashby has garnered strong support from the local Republican party, which as you may know isn't all that fond of unions. Ashby dropped by the Source on Tuesday to discuss the situation at the DA's office, including his decision to refrain from the unionization effort. Ashby said that he thought the office needed to take a less "defensive" position vis a vis the changeover, adding that more communication was needed between the DA's office and Flaherty. He took exception to the notion that his stance is in any way influenced by the impending election.
"This is too important to be treated like a political football," Ashby said of the union vote.
"I would not take a political position on this for the betterment of my campaign. That would be repugnant," Ashby said.
According to The Bulletin, prosecutors will likely know by next month whether their unionization bid is successful after ballots are counted by Employee Relations Board.