Stillaguamish Tribe donates to prosecutors

SMOKEY POINT — The Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians is aiming to be a good neighbor to the rest of Snohomish County, according to Shawn Yanity.

Yanity, chair of the Stillaguamish Tribal Board of Directors, explained that the Tribe’s recent donation of $86,000 to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office is just one of the contributions they’ve made to the surrounding community, with roughly $100,000 of Tribal funds also going toward an emergency training facility for Snohomish County Fire District 7 in Snohomish.

“It’ll help them get their firefighters trained,” Yanity said. “We’ve got a good relationship with Snohomish County, so we want to help them when they’ve got shortfalls in their budgets for infrastructure and protecting the community.”

Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe had anticipated that he would need to cut a deputy prosecutor position in one of the county’s four District Court divisions, on top of the reduction from 12 to eight remaining deputy prosecutors that was already made in 2009. The Tribe’s donation will cover the salary for that deputy prosecutor position for a full year.

“It’s a burden to the whole community when these agencies can’t respond in a timely way to these cases,” Yanity said, referring to the backlog in District Court cases that occurred after each deputy prosecutor found themselves handling an additional 400 cases two years ago.

Roe dismissed suggestions that this donation constitutes a conflict of interest, noting that the Tribe has its own court, through the Northwest Intertribal Court System. Although Tribal court prosecutors can refer certain cases to Snohomish County prosecutors, Roe reported that the county Prosecutors’ Office received only one case each in 2009 and 2010 from the Tribal court, after receiving four cases from Tribal prosecutors in 2008.

“The prosecutor they’re funding works in Lynnwood, so there’s nothing for them to influence,” Roe said. “If Microsoft or Boeing had made a similar donation to us, I don’t think there would be such a slant on this story. These people are genuinely trying to help, and this is the reward they get.”

Yanity remains optimistic about the Tribe’s relationship with the surrounding community, as its fisheries personnel continue to work with those in county agriculture to review each industry’s impacts on the other, as well as to find common grounds over the often limited lands they must share.

“Clean water is important to everybody, not just sea life, but we also rely on agriculture as a community,” Yanity said. “It can be tough to discuss subjects like estuaries because farmers can feel like they’re being pushed into areas that are the salmon’s only homes, but we’re willing to work together to find win-win solutions for both sides.”

Among the ideas raised during these discussions has been a proposal to revise national funding policies, so that lands can receive grants for both farming and environmental restoration, rather than having to choose between the two.

In the meantime, the Stillaguamish Tribe will again sponsor the Arlington Boys & Girls Club’s annual fundraising auction, on May 7 from 5-11 a.m.

“We could say that we don’t need to do all this, but if we have the capability, we do need to do it,” Yanity said. “Snohomish County is our neighborhood too.”

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