The Kitsap County District Court’s administrator was fired Wednesday from the job he held for five years, marking the departure of the top non-elected official in the four-judge court.
Reached by phone, Clint Casebolt confirmed he was terminated and characterized it as “abrupt.”
“Over the last several months it became clear that I no longer enjoyed the support of the new presiding judge,” Casebolt, 57, later wrote in a prepared statement to the Kitsap Sun. “I am disappointed in that, and sorry to leave the District Court.”
Prior to becoming the court administrator in March 2017, Casebolt worked as a Washington State Patrol trooper for 26 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant. A couple years after retiring he started as the court administrator, stepping in for long-time administrator Maury Baker, who retired. The court handles misdemeanors, traffic citations and other infractions issued in the unincorporated areas of the county.
District Court Judge Claire Bradley, the presiding judge of the court, announced Casebolt’s departure Wednesday in an email to other Kitsap County officials and wrote that she would be handling administrative duties.
“Things are rough here, down many bodies and losing two more next week,” Bradley wrote in the email. “It’s pretty bleak. However, I also view this as an opportunity for our court to really look at the organizational structure and review what is working and what isn’t working. Please feel free to give me any ideas or constructive criticism you have that you think would help us.”
In comments to the Kitsap Sun on Friday, Bradley said judges wished Casebolt well but said as a personnel matter she could not disclose specifics of his departure.
She said the court has enough employees to do the work right now, complimented the court’s employees for working hard and said new employees were expected in the coming weeks.
However, Bradley acknowledged that the pool of qualified applicants to the court has dwindled — something she said was not specific to District Court, but a larger society-wide phenomenon.
Kitsap County courts, including District Court and Superior Court, require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a policy which Bradley said likely has affected the court’s ability to retain some employees.
“For sure,” Bradley said. “I’m sure that at least contributed.”
She was unsure if new applicants were made aware of the mandate prior to applying.
Bradley said she stands by the mandate, as judges have prioritized the safety of not just employees but members of the public who have no choice but to come to court.
“We have an absolute, affirmative obligation to keep people who come into court safe,” Bradley said. “They are not choosing to go out to dinner, these people are compelled to come to court, including our jurors.”
In a statement from 2017 announcing Casebolt’s hiring, no mention was made of prior experience working in courts.
“Kitsap District Court is fortunate to be able to hire Mr. Casebolt as the new court administrator,” Judge Jeff Jahns said. “His extensive management experience will be a valuable asset to our office.”
In the same statement, Casebolt said learning to look at the criminal justice system from the perspective of the judicial branch “has certainly been an educational experience, but one that I’ve very much enjoyed.”
Following his termination, Casebolt wrote that he was proud of his work with the court.
“Especially in our response to COVID and our continuing efforts at keeping the public and our staff safe while maintaining access to the courts,” Casebolt wrote. “The partnerships and support of the Board of County Commissioners, county administrator, human resources and other departments was key to our ability to continue essential court functions.”
Rumors swirled after Casebolt’s departure, but one held that he had been escorted away by a sheriff’s deputy. That is untrue, said Casebolt, Bradley and Jahns.
Turnover in the court came into focus late last year when in November the court fired a 27-year employee whose efforts to be exempted from the court’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate were rejected. The former employee, Tammy Duryea, had sought religious and health care exemptions. She said Friday that a lawsuit against the county alleging wrongful termination was “imminent.”
Duryea remains in touch with her former co-workers and said she knows eight employees who left the office since the fall. She said that following those departures, remaining employees are left to shoulder the work.
“I wouldn’t say it was the greatest place in the world, but it was functioning, everybody got along and everybody did their job,” Duryea said. “I think it was the mandate that just imploded it.”