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County prosecutor in Washington state announces resignation

December 28, 2020 GMT

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — An elected prosecuting attorney in Washington state has announced his resignation, citing an inability to handle caseloads with existing staff and “racially motivated attacks” from the community.

Okanogan County Attorney Arian Noma, a Republican, drafted his resignation letter earlier this month and is expected to resign on Jan. 15 after two years in the position, The Spokesman-Review reported Sunday.

“I routinely received vile attacks about my race, ancestry, and even the color of my skin,” Noma said in his resignation letter. Noma’s ancestry includes Native American, Black and immigrant heritage.

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His letter expresses exasperation with budgetary constraints preventing him from hiring new attorneys to handle cases. He also mentioned a coordinated effort on social media to attack Noma and his family, referencing a Facebook page that has been critical of his leadership and included images of his personal vehicle and other attacks.

The Facebook page responded to Noma’s letter saying its criticisms of the office were not inspired by race and that the images were intended to show Noma’s alleged absences from the office.

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Noma deferred further comment on his resignation until after it takes effect next month.

The Okanogan County Republican Party must now forward a recommendation of appointment to county commissioners. State law requires an elected prosecutor to be registered to vote in the county they represent and be permitted to practice law.

Two people had applied as of Wednesday, including Dave Stevens and Melanie Bailey.

Stevens served as a deputy prosecutor in Spokane County from 2002 to 2010, when he filed to run against his boss at the time, County Prosecutor Steve Tucker. He has served as a deputy prosecutor in the Okanogan County office since January 2018, handling felony criminal cases.

Bailey, who previously held Stevens’ job as the chief deputy criminal prosecutor, now practices criminal law on her own. She wrote in an email that her previous work in the office would allow her to make necessary improvements to its efficiency.

“The Prosecutor’s Office needs strong leadership and to regain the confidence and trust of the citizens of Okanogan County,” Bailey said in an email Thursday.