A county service that helps people navigate the legal system and has become an issue in the Clark County clerk race appears to be in a more secure position, at least for now.
For a $20 fee, the facilitator’s office helps people initiate many common family-law actions, while also providing information on court rules, scheduling, procedures and other resources. In June, Barbara Melton, a Democrat running for clerk, criticized what she said was a decision made by incumbent Clerk Scott Weber that would cut the office’s funding from the county’s upcoming budget.
“I believe it was my bringing it to the public’s attention and the blow-back from the public is what saved the office,” Melton said in an interview Tuesday with The Columbian’s Editorial Board. Melton described the office as “very necessary.”
The facilitator’s office currently has a two-year budget of $384,102. It’s staffed with two full-time positions, one of which is opening up because of a retirement.
Weber, a Republican in his second term, said that Melton’s description was not entirely accurate. He said that currently, “it’s still under consideration for the county council to review.” But he said he spoke with Clark County Manager Shawn Henessee, who told him that the county has sold a property and that the budget shortfall “is not as drastic as what they thought.”
“So at that point, it doesn’t look like our office would be at risk of actually having to make any cuts,” he said.
He said that he was confident enough that the facilitator’s office would have funding to remain open that he would fill the open position. While he called the facilitator’s office important, he noted that it isn’t a mandatory function of the clerk’s office.
During the interview, Weber also touted his work to move his office toward a paperless system and to make documents more accessible electronically. He said that 30 percent of all his office’s documents come in “completely paperless.” He also touted his efforts to learn what’s effective in other counties and highlighted his work implementing a new computer system.
Melton, who has worked in the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for 17 years and served as a union shop steward for 12 years, said that she has not had training on the new system but should be able to get up to speed and be able to continue implementing it.
“I know the office, and I know how it should and should not be run,” she said. “And I will be ready to lead from day one.”
Melton mentioned her endorsements of local Democratic Party organizations and officials, including Democratic Clark County Treasurer Doug Lasher.
Weber said he has been endorsed by former five-term Clerk Jo Anne McBride, as well as current Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins. Weber said he was most proud of the endorsement of former Clark County Superior Court Judge Edwin Poyfair.
“I’m very proud of what the clerk’s office has done,” he said.