Opinion

Will the King County Assessor change his plea? | Bob Roegner

The news that King County Assessor Scott Noble’s recent hearing on his DUI/vehicular assault charge had been canceled caught the attention of many in the political world.

The unconfirmed rumor is that at Noble’s next hearing on May 14, he will change his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty.” This has started speculation about a possible replacement and election.

Most who have followed this story have thought that ultimately, Noble would likely make a deal with the Attorney General’s office to get a reduced sentence rather than face two felony charges at trial and risk a severe sentence. Due to the circumstances of the episode, out of deference to Noble, and from the assumption that Noble would likely have to vacate his office anyway, most officials have resisted any public discussion of the potential scenario of events.

But behind the scenes, there is movement and speculation.

If Noble is going to change his plea to anything that admits a felony, he will no longer be able to hold his office. In that event, timing and the May 14 date become critical to those who might be interested in succeeding him. If Noble resigns prior to June 1, there is time for the King County Elections department to hold a filing period and have a primary and general election. If he were to resign after June 1, there would be no primary, but a winner-take-all general. If he resigns as late as mid-July, whoever fills the temporary appointment could finish out the remaining two years of his term — and then the position would be up for election.

Under the county’s succession criteria, Noble’s chief deputy Rich Medved would assume the position until the King County Council appointed a replacement. It is believed that both Medved and chief appraiser Lynn Gering would be interested in the appointment. But others are also watching events.

The assessor’s job is a low-key position that only catches the average citizen’s attention around Valentine’s Day, when the new assessed values arrive in homeowners’ mailboxes. However, the person holding the job could increase its visibility. Former Republican Assessor Harley Hoppe parlayed the job into a couple of unsuccessful runs for governor. The other option, particularly for a member of the part-time state Legislature, is to use the position to gain a higher salary for the two-year minimum to increase your pension.

Speculation has most people looking at the unsuccessful candidates for King County elections director as possible candidates for either appointment or election as assessor. Current south county Republican State Sen. Pam Roach and former Eastside Republican county council member David Irons are names mentioned. Both are conservative and probably canceled each other out in the elections director race. Roach has been rumored to be looking for a full-time government job. Irons is believed to want to return to politics in some capacity.

Former City of Seattle treasurer and current Port of Seattle commissioner Lloyd Hara is another name that has been mentioned. Hara is a Democrat from Seattle who stepped aside to give Sherril Huff a clear shot at the elections director job, thereby avoiding the Republicans’ mistake of vote splitting.

Of course, this is all just coffee-klatch speculation until Noble decides what he is going to do. But there is movement below the radar screen as insiders wonder about these people and others.

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