Give attorney a chance

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Our first reaction to the petition calling for a special election for the office of Cherokee County Attorney was indignant disbelief.

After all, the election process failed to produce a candidate on the November ballot for the office of county attorney, which went from part-time to full-time as of the start of the year.

After hearing the reason for the petition, we can understand it but still disagree with it.

No county resident attorney wanted to accept the position at $55,000 per year, the amount approved by the supervisors for the winner of the November election.

An annual process involving the Cherokee County Compensation Board makes adjustments of all elected county officials, including the county attorney but since the position changed from part-time to full-time, the supervisors had set the $55,000 salary by resolution. Since no one ran for the office the supervisors advertised for the position and negotiated the salary.

The supervisors negotiated a salary of $92,000 with Jamie Bowers based on his years as a federal prosecutor. After less than three months on the job, Bowers announced his intention of resigning but agreed to stay on during the search for a replacement. James Tiernan, a less experienced attorney than Bowers, was hired at a salary of $70,000 and started work as of June 1.

It was subsequently noted that at least one attorney in Cherokee County had applied for the position of county attorney. Ryan Kolpin is a life-long resident of the county and has more experience as an attorney than Tiernan.

We don't know why the supervisors picked someone from out of the county over a local person. Perhaps the thinking was to get "fresh blood" in the office, someone not part of the "good old boy" network of attorneys.

We're not convinced that either being fresh blood or being a life-long resident has much relevance to the office of county attorney.

The supervisors were apparently unrealistic in initially setting the salary at $55,000. If the supervisors' intent was to discourage candidates so they could go through the process of appointing someone at a negotiated salary, that was a mistake. There is a possible looming legal dispute regarding salary for the appointed-but-then-elected position.

Whatever the supervisors' intent was, James Tiernan accepted the position in good faith. The special election is not a welcoming gesture to a professional couple asked to come to our county.

It is true that Tiernan was aware of the possibility of a special election before accepting the position and it's also true that even without a special election, Tiernan would need to run for the office to retain it in the future. Still, we regard it as unfortunate that he faces a challenge to his position so soon after assuming office.

A couple of months back, we took an editorial stand critical of Bowers' decision to not give Cherokee County much of a chance. It is only right that we take an editorial stand against Cherokee County possibly not giving a new attorney much of a chance.


An article in the June 1 Chronicle Times and an editorial in the June 4 edition both incorrectly listed the salary of Jamie Bowers as $92,000. The salary of the person who recently resigned as Cherokee County Attorney was $90,000.