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Judge to rule later on Security Services Northwest appeal following scrappy court hearing

Peninsula Daily News

PORT ORCHARD, WA-- A Kitsap County Superior Court judge said Tuesday he will rule later on a Security Services Northwest's appeal of a Jefferson County hearing examiner's decision.

Judge Jay B. Roof, did not say how long he would mull his decision.

At the hearing's morning opening, Roof said he had thoroughly reviewed the case records and arguments from the three-day Jefferson County hearing in Port Townsend late last year.

``I am not moved by the intensity of all of you right now,'' Roof told lawyers in the case before he quickly walked out of the courtroom Tuesday afternoon.

At one point in the more than three-hour hearing in the Kitsap courthouse, Security Service's lawyer Glen Amster charged that the county's contracted attorney, Mark Johnsen, was being ``slippery and misleading'' with the facts of the case.

While Amster asked that that the county decision be struck down, Johnsen asked that the court uphold it.

County decision

A the heart of the matter is Jefferson County hearing examiner Irv Berteig's December decision that states Security Services was in no way a legal non-conforming business.

Had the company been found to be a legal non-conforming business, the county would have allowed it to continue operations.

Those operations have been expanded in recent years to accommodate the addition of homeland security training, involving gunfire and the related training of military and police personnel.

Berteig's decision effectively shut down the Fort Discovery Training Center on 3,700 acres that Security Services President Joe D'Amico leases from the Gunstone family.

On the other hand, the county has allowed Security Services to operate its original security guard and armored car business on Discovery Bay since 1988.

That business employs more than 100 on the North Olympic Peninsula and in Seattle.

Appeal filed

Security Services attorneys filed a Land Use Policy Act appeal in Kitsap Superior Court after Jefferson County Judge Craddock Verser late last year ruled in the county's favor.

Verser's ruling allowed two injunctions against the company's training of contracted military and paramilitary homeland security operatives.

His final decision required that Security Services post $20,000 with the court until it could prove it was training a replacement company employee and not an outside trainee with the U.S. Department of Defense or another police or defense agency.

Amster: Facts bypassed

Tuesday, Amster argued that Berteig, in his hearing examiner decision, bypassed the facts of the case.

``Before the hearing is even 20 minutes old, the examiner has decided to ignore the evidence presented by Security Services,'' he said.

Amster contended that land-use law deals only in changes with land use.

``There is nothing in land-use law that precludes a business from changing, adapting or improving its services,'' he told the court.

Although D'Amico was unable to come up with payroll and personnel records, Amster said the company secured five sworn statements from witnesses, including Reed Gunstone, president of Discover Bay Timber Co., with whom D'Amico has a verbal lease agreement.

``I've got five different declarations testifying that they saw training since 1988,'' said Amster.

Gunstone attended Tuesday's appeal hearing.

Others attending included Jefferson County Commissioner Phil Johnson, some of D'Amico's family and staff, and members of Discovery Bay Alliance, which opposes the training center's gunfire echoing across the placid bay.


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