OKANOGAN — Pointing to a woeful budget and racial discrimination, Okanogan County Prosecutor Arian Noma has filed his resignation.
In a news release Friday, Noma wrote “The combination of an impossible institutional task and an utterly dehumanizing work context makes my tenure as your Prosecutor untenable.”
Noma was elected prosecutor in 2018 with nearly 60% of the vote after running on a campaign of reform. His resignation is effective Jan. 15.
The Okanogan County Commission did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Noma explained the primary reason for announcing his resignation was to call attention to his undersized, overworked and underfunded staff. He said the prosecutor’s office is short-staffed by at least seven attorneys and three support staff.
His office has two deputy prosecutors to try Superior Court cases. One deputy prosecutor has 242 open cases and the other has 140, Noma wrote. He added he carried more than 60 of those cases and the entire appellate unit, which has 30 to 40 cases.
The workload associated with the high case count was compounded by trial delays from COVID-19, he said. He and his deputies work most evenings to keep up, he said.
“I have repeatedly asked for additional funds to do this service, but unfortunately that has not materialized,” he wrote. “To be clear, it is not fair to our client, the Okanogan Public, to only have three trial deputies to handle a job requiring at least five. I cannot ethically consent to ‘business as usual’ where cases are unfiled, trials are delayed, or even dismissed or lost due to lack of personnel.”
He added, “In short, we are tasked with fighting a war that costs $10.00 on a budget of $1.00, or to look at it another way, we are asked to fight tanks with guns with bows and rocks.”
Noma's resignation letter also states that he’s been subject to “racially motivated attacks.”
“I routinely received vile attacks about my race, ancestry, and even the color of my skin,” Noma wrote. “My home and minor children have been watched, my vehicles have been followed and photographed, and a Facebook page was set up for the sole purpose of harassing my home, family, voters, and friends that supported me.”
He accused the page creators of disseminating his vehicle information, location of his neighborhood and instructions to find his address, which he called, “utterly inappropriate, potentially dangerous, caused my family fear and anxiety, and by any rational or ethical standard, is completely out of bounds.”
In response to Noma’s resignation, Facebook group “No More Noma for Prosecutor,” which has called for Noma to leave office since July and has published several apparent emails and documents from Okanogan County officials, addressed accusations of racism from Noma.
“This campaign had nothing to do with race and more to do with holding an elected official accountable for his actions. Further, the names of the murderers and rapists given throughout our campaign were comprised of mostly ‘white’ offenders,” the page posted. “We do not care about the color of their skin, we care about the danger imposed on our families by criminals Arian Noma failed to prosecute.”