Washington County elected officials explain their jobs
The new Washington County board chairwoman says the public deserves to hear directly from all county elected officials, not just the five commissioners.
So that is why five other officials joined Chairwoman Kathryn Harrington and four commissioners in a state of the county presentation that about 250 people attended April 17 at Conestoga Recreation and Aquatic Center in Beaverton.
Auditor John Hutzler said:
"It is a forum that provides all of your elected officials the opportunity to tell our constituents who we are, why we have chosen public service as a career, what we do and how we intend to make the county a better place for us all to live, work, play and raise a family."
Remarks by the five commissioners were reported in a previous story, which appeared in the April 25 edition of The Times/Washington County Times.
John Hutzler was unopposed in 2018 and began his third term in January. He acknowledged that unlike the others — whose functions have had wide news coverage and representation in fiction — the auditor is the least known.
"My office evaluates whether your county government is efficiently and effectively providing its citizens with the services we want and need," he said.
The three employees in the office have looked at a range of programs during the past eight years, including health care in the jail, sheriff's patrols, road maintenance, animal services and government ethics.
"We do not have the resources to audit everything the county does," Hutzler said. "But we do have the authority to audit anything the county does."
The auditor does not examine whether money is spent properly. Under state law, every local government does undergo a financial audit every year, but that work is done by firms separate from government.
Sheriff Pat Garrett, a veteran who has held the top job for more than seven years, does issue an annual report. Of the total county government workforce of more than 2,000, nearly 600 work for the Sheriff's Office.
"While public safety is a priority and crime rates matter, service, kindness and respect for all people must be our cornerstone," Garrett said.
One of his deputies, assigned by contract to Banks, was injured hours before the forum when a driver intending to turn left veered into oncoming lane and struck patrol car head-on.
While Garrett mentioned the crash, he also talked about the soon-to-be-opened public safety training center on 12 acres in west Hillsboro.
Garrett said the center will enable deputies and police to obtain training beyond what they get at the state public safety academy in Salem.
He said he plans for deputies to receive additional training in de-escalation, crisis intervention and officer wellness.
District Attorney Kevin Barton succeeded Bob Hermann, who had been DA 20 years and retired six months early, just after Barton defeated Beaverton lawyer Max Wall a year ago in Oregon's most expensive contest for DA.
Barton, who specialized in prosecuting child sexual abuse cases, said one of his priorities is to help CARES (Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services) open a Washington County office. The agency is based in northwest Portland.
"I believe the work that we do to protect the vulnerable in our community will pay off and create a safer Washington County for all of us," he said.
Barton recounted what happened after a successful prosecution of a child sex abuse case. He said that jurors asked afterward to meet with him — they had rendered their verdict — and that 11 of the 12 jurors told him they wanted to create a scholarship fund for the victim.
"They recognized what 20 years of research and common sense tell us: Children who suffer negative experiences during their childhood — exposure to abuse, neglect or violence — are more likely to experience challenges later in life," he said.
"That jury demonstrated how Washington County residents respond, how they spring into action, when there is a need to protect a vulnerable member of our community."
Charles Bailey was a deputy district attorney, handling similar cases, before he was elected a Circuit Court judge in 2006. The state, not the county, pays the 15 judges and court staff, although counties still provide security and court facilities under the terms of the takeover that took effect in 1983.
"But my focus is still the same" as when he was a prosecutor, said Bailey, who became presiding judge in 2015. I am trying to create an environment where your safety is the paramount concern."
Bailey spent 10 minutes describing the work of specialty courts — Washington County has eight of them — that focus on treatment but allow for punishment if offenders violate the terms of their participation.
The oldest is drug court, started in 2005; the newest is a veterans court, started last fall. Most usually have an assigned judge, deputy district attorney and probation officer, and a coordinator often paid by grants. The veterans court also has a sheriff's deputy assigned.
"We have already seen more need than we thought we were going to have," said Bailey, who is a veteran himself.
Dan Cross was elected judge of Washington County Justice Court in 2016. The court, which is a county agency, deals with traffic violations, small claims ($10,000 limit), animal control and eviction cases.
"For most of these individuals, their appearance in our court will be the only direct experience they will ever have with the justice system," said Cross, who had been a lawyer in Hillsboro. "As such, I am keenly aware of my duty to make that experience as fair and as agreeable as possible."
Cross said he goes out of his way to explain how the court works, so that even those who lose in court are satisfied that they have received fair treatment.
The court operates at the county's Service Center East on Southwest Murray Boulevard in Beaverton.