OLYMPIA - In a major personnel shakeup at the Thurston County Prosecutor's Office, the prosecutor-elect confirmed Wednesday that five current deputy prosecuting attorneys will no longer have jobs with the office when he takes over Jan. 1.
Jon Tunheim, who currently is the chief deputy prosecuting attorney, said he is not reappointing David Bruneau, Terri Gailfus, Dominique Jinhong, Debra Eurich and Barbara Penttila.
Tunheim said the decision is in keeping with his philosophy for the office and his prerogative “to build the office I want to build for the next four years” as the elected prosecutor for Thurston County. He said it was “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. I took it very seriously.” He added that it had nothing to do personal feelings about the attorneys or specific issues with their performance.
“It’s been difficult,” he said.
Jinhong, who prosecutes cases that involve allegations of sex abuse against minors, said Wednesday that she was shocked at being told she was “fired.”
“I am deeply saddened and really heartbroken over all of it,” she said. “I really love being a prosecutor.”
Tunheim takes over for Ed Holm, who did not seek re-election. No one ran against Tunheim in November’s election. Many consider Tunheim as Holm’s protégé.
Tunheim said he plans to hire replacements for the five attorneys and that the decision had nothing to do with budgetary issues.
News of the personnel changes spread quickly Wednesday, creating a buzz. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the fact that Bruneau won’t be returning; he has about 35 years of experience, including service as the elected prosecutor in Clallam County. He routinely prosecutes high-profile felony cases in Thurston County, including homicides and other violent crimes.
Bruneau, who is in trial this week, declined to comment outside court Wednesday afternoon.
Jinhong noted that she heads the ongoing negotiations for the prosecutors’ union and that “the first thing we asked for was for cause firing.” Tunheim said Jinhong’s union activity has nothing to do with his decision.
“I don’t think I deserved to get fired,” said Jinhong, who has worked as a Thurston County prosecutor for nine years.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465 firstname.lastname@example.org