Randall K. Gaylord, San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney
Protecting our People and Protecting our Islands
Helping Victims of Crime
For over 22 years, I have developed and expanded the crime victim services program of the Prosecutor’s office with focus on obtaining secure, dedicated state and federal grants. Today, two full-time employees advocate for the interests of crime victims, assuring that they are informed of cases, bringing concerns to the judge and supporting them throughout the process. This important work has fundamentally improved service to hundreds of victims of all types of crime, especially victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. In 2018, the Washington Legislature adopted a law I brought forward to pay victims of crime with out of pocket losses before insurance companies or other sources.
Protecting our Killer Whales
In 2008, I wrote the first ordinance that established a distance requirement between our killer whales and vessels and other objects. This county law became a model for subsequent state and federal regulations. Since then, my office has enforced the law through regulation of motor vessel, sailboat and drone interactions with orcas, and urged the adoption of amendments by the state to enhance protection of this critically endangered signature species.
The Jet Ski Case
In 1995, I wrote an ordinance prohibiting jet skis in San Juan County, and then defended that ordinance in a challenge brought by a Chicago-based marine industry association. In the New York Times, Timothy Egan noted that the case presented a “David and Goliath” battle, and the significance of the ordinance can be measured by the number of people it touched. As lead counsel, I coordinated a team of four lawyers as well as volunteer lawyers from six states across the country. Concerned citizens contributed over $18,000 to help pay for the defense, and I was invited to give presentations about the case in New Jersey and Florida. Although the decision was issued in 1998, almost every year I receive inquiries from citizens in other states or countries as far away as Germany asking for support as they address similar community issues with jet skis. Weden et al. v. San Juan County, 135 Wn.2d 678, 958 P.2d 273 (1998).
Leadership and Teaching
Nothing promotes loyalty to public service better than taking leadership roles and teaching others about the law and good practices. Through topics such as prosecutor ethics, coroner procedures, public records, taxes, and case law and legislative updates, my leadership and teaching help create future leaders and public servants. As the Chair of the Civil Committee at the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (WAPA), I develop curriculum and teach classes to civil deputy prosecutors each year. I have also served as President of WAPA and the Washington Association of County Officials.
This office is legal counsel to the San Juan County Land Bank, which is funded by the real estate excise tax. Large transactions that we have supported include the Turtleback Mountain acquisition ($18 million); LaFarge Park acquisition ($1.5 million); and Mount Grant. Most recently, this work has focused on protecting these acquisitions (and road ends to the beach) from efforts to limit or block public access to public property. My work capitalizes on previous experience as co-founder and general counsel of the Inland Northwest Land Trust, Spokane.
Island-Centered Solid Waste Programs
The unique circumstances of each island require localized approaches to solid waste and recycling. On Lopez Island this led to establishment of the Lopez Solid Waste District. Shortly thereafter, the Orcas Island transfer station was taken over by a revitalized non-profit that had been operating The Exchange. San Juan Island has its own approach and coordinates with the Town of Friday Harbor. I am proud of these three unique community solutions that fulfill a vital need.
The Barefoot Bandit Case
Of national notoriety, the story of this serial plane-flying burglar not only captured the imagination of the public and the media, but also raised fear in those whose homes he entered, disrupting their sense of security. Sixteen cases were successfully prosecuted against Colton Harris Moore, resulting in a plea that was obtained in coordination with other county prosecutors and U.S. Attorney’s Office. The plea is unique in that almost all restitution was repaid through assurance that Mr. Harris Moore would not profit from movie studio interest in the story.
Advancing Transparent Public Records Procedures
Assuring government transparency by quickly complying with public records requests while protecting privacy is a real challenge. This involves careful County staff training and developing model rules. My office has been a key partner in developing more effective ways to find, produce and describe records. We defended the administrative review process aimed at eliminating mistakes and forwarding records to people. Using technology, a program called Gov-QA was adopted together with training for all county employees and some special purpose districts.
Land Use Cases
A significant part of this work is to advise and defend the County in its careful balancing of land use planning interests and compliance with state law. Scores of issues have been resolved through dozens of decisions by the Growth Management Hearing Board, Shoreline Hearings Board, Superior Courts and appellate courts of Washington. These actions have long-term implications for the shape of our county and others throughout the state. Controversial subjects include: rural densities and uses, unincorporated urban growth areas on Orcas and Lopez Islands, affordable housing, conservation design standards, accessory dwelling units, vacation rentals, essential public facilities, public participation, critical areas, docks, bulkheads, and shoreline protection.
Innovation and Dedication to Coroner Cases
Only eight, small counties in Washington State include the responsibility of county coroner with the office of prosecuting attorney. Though this aspect of the position can often disrupt prosecuting responsibilities given its unpredictable and immediate needs, I am proud of the coroner services my office provides to the citizens of San Juan County and its visitors. Navigating death within a small community requires coordination of law enforcement, firefighters, first-responders, and funeral homes while supporting families with the utmost compassion and dignity during extremely difficult circumstances. I also developed procedures allowing for green burials when requested.
Upholding the People’s Vote on County Charter Amendments
When the Freeholders and Charter review committee determined how to establish our government and the people voted to approve it, a court challenge followed. I defended the people’s vote for a new way of organizing government, county-wide districting and the power of initiative and referendum.
In 1997, Sheriff and Drug Task Force members executed search warrants and arrested marijuana growers on Waldron Island. The cases were referred to our office resulting in a furor over the investigation and veracity of the confidential informants captured by a Los Angeles Times writer in a long story. When cannabis reform was subsequently approved a decade later, I supported the changes by the Washington legislature, but remain stringent on those providing cannabis to underage users and promote treatment when appropriate.
Three U.S. Supreme Court Filings
Cases that rise to the U.S. Supreme Court are significant, and three of my filings have resulted in such. I served as counsel for seven Washington counties in support of Governor Locke in Intertanko v. Locke, 148 F.3d 1053 (1998), rev’d 529 U.S. 89 (1999). The Intertanko Amicus Brief used a novel approach of attaching a dozen color photographs to illustrate the fragile and important resources of the Salish Sea that could be damaged from an oil spill. In 2017, we successfully defended the critical areas regulations against charges that they violated the U.S. Constitution in Citizens Alliance for Property Rights Legal Fund v. San Juan County. My first case (while in private practice) was Chicago Bridge and Iron v. State of Washington, 484 U.S. 823 (1987).
Ballot and Election Litigation
A close race for Governor in 2004 led to state-wide litigation and eventual reform in the popular vote-by-mail system of the Secretary of State’s Office. One of those reforms was to select pilot counties to test a system of tracking the location of ballots much like UPS and FEDEX track the location of package. Concern over ballot secrecy by local resident Tim White led to litigation in 2006, now the oldest case in the office. The ballot tracker software was discontinued over those concerns after a judge ruled that the software must be certified by the Secretary of State. The case is winding its way in the appellate courts, with the issue now focusing on whether a bar code on the ballot interferes with the confidentiality of the vote. Stay tuned!
The Family Phone and Privacy Case
I was counsel in two trials leading to the conviction of young man for stealing a purse from a retired school teacher in Friday Harbor. This case became a sensation of talk radio shows, national and local television, and later a book when the State Supreme Court reversed the first conviction saying a mother violated privacy laws when she used the base unit of the family cordless phone to listen to a conversation between her 14 year-old daughter and the defendant. The defendant was conclusively convicted at his second trial. State v. Christensen, 153 Wn.2d 186, 102 P.3d 789 (2004).
Fair Campaigns – The Gas Tax
In 2005, San Juan County and three cities enforced state public disclosure laws as a political campaign to repeal the 9.5 cent gas tax authorized by the legislature. The gas tax is an important source of funding for ferries. The suit sought the disclosure of campaign principals who were talk show hosts. The trial court ordered the campaign to disclose the identity of the contributors and the value of the radio contributions. Prosecutors then referred the case to the public disclosure commission for penalties and moved to dismiss the lawsuit. The campaign countersued claiming interference with free speech rights. In its first application of the media rules, the court held that disclosure is required, but only when the media facilities are controlled by a political committee. San Juan County et. al. v. No New Gas Tax.com.