EPHRATA — Grant County Prosecutor D. Angus Lee must withdraw his lawsuit against a Grant County employee due to a conflict of interest, a judge has ruled.
Lee must seek the services of either the state Attorney General, another county’s prosecutor, or another attorney if he wants to pursue his civil lawsuit, Douglas County Superior Court Judge John Hotchkiss ruled Monday.
Lee sued in June alleging that Jerry Jasman is prohibited from serving as chief investigator for the Grant County Coroner. Jasman was the Grant County coroner when he pleaded guilty in 2009 to disorderly conduct for requiring an employee to stay in his car to discuss who would be on call one Saturday.
As part of a plea agreement, Jasman resigned from his job as coroner and agreed never to seek another public office in Washington.
Jasman’s Ephrata attorney, George Ahrend, said Jasman is an employee, not an elected public official.
He called the lawsuit a “waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Lee did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Hotchkiss’ ruling said that the decision has nothing to do with the merits of the case, and only addresses the conflict of interest issue.
He did not rule on a September motion filed by Lee seeking an emergency injunction preventing Jasman from continuing to serve as deputy coroner.
Lee claimed in the lawsuit that death certificates that Jasman completed are invalid, and do not carry the weight of law.
In a declaration to the court filed in September, Coroner Craig Morrison said that Jasman no longer signs death certificates due to his concern for Jasman’s personal liability while the lawsuit is pending.
He wrote that the state Department of Health has accepted death certificates signed by Jasman.
He also said in the declaration that Grant County commissioners agreed to his request for funds to defend Jasman against the lawsuit, but later reversed that decision based on legal advice from Lee’s office. He wrote that he believes Lee’s prosecution of the lawsuit conflicts with his duty to represent the coroner’s office, and interferes with his ability to manage his own office.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512