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Sherriff's Guild files suit against county, Boyer

Strained relations between the Kitsap County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild and Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer and his administration are not getting better.

The guild filed a lawsuit against Boyer and the county Feb. 13 in Kitsap County Superior Court. It claims the sheriff’s administration denied a guild request for personnel files and investigative records on former Lt. Jim Harris under the state’s Public Disclosure Act.

Guild representatives say the records on Harris, which they contend are public, are key to defending former deputy Brian LaFrance.

LaFrance was fired from his post in late November 2001, and an arbitration hearing — where the guild will contest his termination — is scheduled for May.

Harris, who was LaFrance’s direct supervisor at the time of his termination, resigned from his post in the sheriff’s detective division effective Jan. 7.

“This goes right to the core of their case,” said Jim Cline, an attorney representing the deputy sheriff’s guild.

Thursday’s lawsuit is the latest evidence indicating communication has broken down in recent weeks between the sheriff’s office and guild representatives.

Cline had already filed an unfair labor practice complaint on behalf of the guild against Boyer and the sheriff’s office with the Public Employment Relations Commission Feb. 7.

The complaint alleges Boyer unilaterally changed the rules regarding guild activities during regular business hours without first going through a bargaining process. Deputies have been working without a contract, and negotiations are still unsettled between the guild and the sheriff’s office.

Boyer, who was preparing for a press conference on an unrelated matter Thursday, was surprised to hear of the lawsuit, just as he was surprised to hear about the unfair labor practice complaint.

“We were just trying to follow the rules, and we’re just taking care of business,” Boyer said. “Privacy is also important.”

Copies of the suit were served to defendants Boyer and the county, shortly after the claim was filed in superior court.

“When there is a disagreement, then there is an alternative to that,” said Undersheriff Dennis Bonneville. “A suit can be filed or some other action to counter our decision. That’s the process and we’re comfortable with that. We will comply with what decision the court directs us to do.”

Cline contends documentation in the investigative reports and personnel files on Harris could hurt his credibility, casting doubt on whether LaFrance was treated fairly leading up to his termination.

In preparation for LaFrance’s case, Cline requested the files on Harris on Dec. 6, according to the suit.

Shortly after Christmas, the county supplied the guild with Harris-related docu-

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