A former top-ranking deputy to two state attorneys general will oversee a whistleblower investigation of Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist and his high-ranking staff members, according to records obtained by The News Tribune.
The records set an initial budget of $35,000 for the investigation, but sources close to the process believe the number could climb because of the complexity of the inquiry and the number of witnesses slated for interviews.
Brian Moran, of the Orrick law firm in Seattle, will provide legal advice to the county’s Human Resources Division during the investigation, according to a contract executed May 29.
The contract sets a cap of $10,000 for Moran’s services, while noting he charges $560 an hour.
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A separate contract with the Seattle law firm of Sebris Busto James budgets an initial $25,000 for the investigation itself, which covers witness interviews, fact-finding and recommendations.
Those interviews began in June, according to multiple sources, and are not yet complete.
The News Tribune sought comment from Lindquist. He did not respond by the end of the day Friday.
County leaders are tight-lipped about the investigation, declining to discuss details until the process is finished and the findings are released.
The contract indicates the investigation will examine allegations in two whistleblower complaints filed in May by county deputy prosecutor Steven Merrival and chief criminal deputy prosecutor Stephen Penner.
The complaints allege various acts of misconduct by Lindquist and some of his staff members, and list more than 90 witnesses, including more than 20 deputy prosecutors.
Some witnesses have been asked to return for additional interviews, The News Tribune has learned.
Moran was the chief deputy attorney general under former Attorney General Rob McKenna, now a partner in the Orrick firm.
Before that, he worked for then-Attorney General Chris Gregoire; Moran played a key role in the 2003 Washington State Patrol investigation of the David Brame scandal, which followed the then-Tacoma police chief’s fatal shooting of his wife and himself.
A separate bar complaint filed in June against Lindquist and six staff members could add more investigative costs, but details are unclear.
The Washington State Bar Association handles such complaints. The early stages of the process are opaque, and disclosure requirements are limited.
Pierce County’s code allows for payment of legal defense costs associated with bar complaints. The code specifies a cap of $15,000 per complaint, with a lifetime cap of $45,000 for attorneys employed by the county.
Ginny Dale, director of the county’s Human Resources Division, was out of town last week and unavailable for comment; acting county spokesman Erich Ebel said department leaders don’t know how long the investigation will take.