Clerk seeks clarification

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Kootenai County Clerk Cliff Hayes wants some clarification on who has the power to hire, fire, authorize wage increases and evaluate the performance of employees working in the court system who are paid with county funds.

He believes he has that authority, concerning bailiffs, security screeners, judicial state attorneys, and specialty court coordinators and trial court administrative assistants. But he hasn't been exercising it.

That's because 1st District Court Judge John Mitchell signed an administrative order telling Hayes not to.

"An administrative order is very strong, because you go to jail if you don't follow it," Hayes said Monday.

On Friday, Hayes filed a lawsuit in 1st District Court seeking clarification through the court system.

Mitchell declined to comment because of the pending lawsuit.

Hayes filed a petition with the Idaho Supreme Court, regarding the same question, but the court dismissed his petition, court documents show.

Hayes said Mitchell, or the district court judges together, have responsibility for day-to-day management. But as state employees, they are not responsible for hiring, firing, wage increases and evaluations.

He said he makes the county's District Court budget, so he should have those powers.

He said a judge from another district likely will have to rule on the question.

Last year, Hayes said he wrote a letter to Mitchell, but didn't immediately receive a response on the subject.

Mitchell responded by administrative order, Hayes said.

According to the court documents, filed by Hayes' attorney Malcolm Dymkoski of Coeur d'Alene, trial court administrator Karlene Behringer has been responsible for determining increases in compensation for court bailiffs, court security personnel, judicial staff attorneys, specialty court coordinators, and Behringer's own assistant.

Like the judges, Behringer is a state employee, Hayes said.

Behringer was called Monday, and Patti Tobias, administrative director of the courts in Idaho, responded. She said she wouldn't comment while the lawsuit is pending.

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