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King County sheriff sends staff home over safety concerns at courthouse

SEATTLE — On Tuesday, King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht told many of her staff members to work from home amid safety concerns in and around the King County Courthouse.

Last week, a courthouse employee was sexually assaulted inside a courthouse restroom. A sheriff’s deputy heard her cries for help. Clint Jory, a registered sex offender, was arrested and charged.

With pushes to close City Hall Park to improve safety, Johanknecht made it clear she isn’t waiting for others to act.

“Effectively immediately, due to the unsafe environment around the courthouse, administration, parking garage and corrections facilities, and concerns from labor unions, we are returning to 100% remote telework for professional staff members who do not routinely interact with the public,” wrote Johanknecht in a letter to staff on Tuesday. “I am committed to doing all we can to make this a safe workplace.”

A plan is in the works for the Public Defenders Association to lease 150 hotel rooms for people living in the park next to the King County Courthouse. The price tag of the contract for the Just Care Program is $15 million.

In the meantime, the prosecutor’s office confirmed jurors are refusing to come to the courthouse and so are some trial witnesses. The prosecutor’s office will hold a march for a safe workplace on Friday at noon at the King County Administration Building.

Johanknecht’s letter to employees is as follows:

Dear Sheriff’s Office Professional Staff members:

The safety and security of our employees is my top priority.  Effectively immediately, due to the unsafe environment around the courthouse, administration, parking garage and corrections facilities, and concerns from labor unions, we are returning to 100% remote telework for professional staff members who do not routinely interact with the public.

Public-facing employees, and other designated employees, who must report to work will be notified by their supervisors. We will continue to pay for parking for these employees for the foreseeable future.

I know many of you have questions and concerns. I intend to hold Teams meetings for those employees who must still report to work so I can speak to you directly. Those meetings will be scheduled as soon as possible.

I will be meeting with other County leaders to discuss short and long term safety solutions for the courthouse and surrounding area. I am committed to doing all we can to make this a safe workplace.

Be well and stay safe,

Mitzi

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