SPOKANE, Wash. - A potentially inappropriate relationship between a deputy prosecutor and a convicted felon in jail, an FBI investigation, and the Spokane County Commissioners knew nothing about any of it until they were told by the news media.
"We would, as a board, appreciate a heads up before finding out literally in the news media," Spokane County Commissioner Al French said Wednesday.
French doesn't like surprises, especially bad ones, so now he and his fellow commissioners are now taking steps to ensure they are notified when one of the county's employees runs afoul of the law.
In this case, the employee is a deputy prosecutor suspected of having an inappropriate relationship with Matt Baumrucker, a felon with multiple convictions who has taken the time to get the word "Criminal" tattooed across his forehead.
In general in Spokane County, whenever, for example, a sheriff's deputy is suspected of doing something wrong if they were suspended that can be confirmed by the human resources department and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich usually follows up with a news release.
However in the case of the deputy prosecutor under investigation, the case was kept secret even from the county commissioners and no one knows why yet.
"There are mechanisms where we could have been given a heads up about this ahead of time and that didn't happen," French said.
Even though the deputy prosecutor under investigation was placed on paid administrative leave almost two months ago, no one told the board of county commissioners or the human resources department. The reason? By the time the deputy prosecutor was placed on administrative leave on April 21, the FBI had already taken over the case and the agency asked the other agencies involved, including the prosecutor's office, not to say anything.
"Clearly the prosecutor is a separately elected official. He can run his office in the way he thinks is in the best interest of the county but we would, as a board, appreciate a heads up before finding out literally in the news yesterday," French said.
KXLY is not naming the deputy prosecutor under investigation because the search warrants that list the allegations against her were sealed by a Superior Court judge. However KXLY has confirmed she went to the Spokane County Jail to visit Baumrucker, but not to discuss his latest criminal case.
"We all as elected officials work to make sure we earn the trust of the community and to be able to do that its means we have to be transparent and everything has to be above board," French said.
Investigators want to know if the deputy prosecutor's relationship with Baumrucker led to him receiving preferential treatment.
So now he'll stand trial for his current gun charge outside Spokane County and other cases the deputy prosecutor was handling could also now be compromised and that may be the reason her suspension was kept quiet.
"The prosecuting attorney has the responsibility for administering that process in his best judgment and clearly we don't want to interfere with that, but a heads up would have been appreciated," French said. "Clearly this was an opportunity where we could have been informed and we weren't but we're taking measures to try and address that."
Both the prosecutor's office and the FBI said they can't comment on what allegations are being investigated but will release that information once the case is complete.