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County council pays final installment of Lindquist’s legal bill, which totaled $108,000

Pierce County Council members checked another box for outgoing Prosecutor Mark Lindquist Tuesday, agreeing to pay legal bills associated with his recent admission of professional wrongdoing.

Council members voted 5-1 to spend an estimated $46,000 linked to the defense of five bar complaints filed against Lindquist since 2015. The most prominent of them effectively ended last month, when Lindquist accepted an admonition from the Washington State Bar Association tied to his 2016 appearance on the “Nancy Grace” legal talk show in the midst of a murder trial.

In the admonition, Lindquist acknowledged that his publicly broadcast comments on the defendant’s potential guilt violated rules of professional conduct governing prosecutors. The stipulation ended the possibility of a full disciplinary hearing on the circumstances, which would have taken place in December.

While the agreement prevented the hearing, Lindquist still incurred legal costs associated with his defense. Those bills ultimately totaled $108,000, some of which the council already had agreed to cover. The total bill exceeded a statutory $90,000 cap for such costs, set by the council several years ago.

To exceed the cap required permission from members. Lindquist first sought that permission in October, a few weeks before he lost his bid for re-election to Mary Robnett, who takes office in January.

At the time, council members rejected the request and sought more information about the costs.

Monday, Steve Fogg, Lindquist’s attorney, spoke to the council during a public study session and provided more detailed information.

“I wanted to first of all come here and make this request in person and show respect and answer any questions you might have,” Fogg said.

He framed the matter as a case of good news and bad news. The bad news was the money: $108,000. The good news: No more bills — probably.

Of the five bar complaints filed against Lindquist, three have been closed. Two were dismissed in 2017. The third, related to the Nancy Grace appearance, ended with the admonition.

Fogg called the admonition a light sanction, and suggested that the bar association was tightening standards that hadn’t been enforced as strictly in the past. He said Lindquist could have pursued the hearing, but decided against it.

“It was a very fightable case,” Fogg said. “But it would also be expensive. From my client’s perspective, that was not a position that he wanted to put either himself or the government in.”

Two additional complaints filed in 2018 remain active. Fogg has responded to them on Lindquist’s behalf. He predicted Monday that the bar association would dismiss them without further investigation.

“I expect those to not be the subject of any further billing,” he said.

Council members considered the request during their regular meeting Tuesday. Councilman Rick Talbert, whose term ends this year, cast the sole no-vote.

“I had two questions that I raised,” Talbert said. “One was to see the activity that had resulted in such a large expenditure. To date I have not seen what I requested. I also requested that the individual, Mr. Lindquist, come and make the request himself. Mr. Lindquist still has not to this date appeared before this body and showed the respect that I believe is due to this body. I will be voting no.”

Councilman Derek Young, who joined the five-member majority, said he also raised questions about the expenses associated with defending the complaints. He said his chief concern hinged on whether Lindquist was acting within the scope of his employment.

“For me, the main thing is that when we indemnify public employees, as long as it’s in the capacity of their jobs, we protect them,” he said. “This has been a difficult issue and I’m glad to close it out.”

News Tribune investigative reporter Sean Robinson won the 2016 Ted Natt First Amendment award for ongoing scrutiny of the Pierce County Prosecutor’s office. Since 2000, he has produced award-winning coverage related to criminal justice, government accountability and public disclosure.
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