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Foster County criminal cases on indefinite hold

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Carrington, ND (WDAZ-TV)

Criminal cases are on hold in Foster County.

That's because the county's only attorney abruptly quit. Now officials are scrambling to fill the position.

The Foster County Commission held a special meeting Monday trying to figure out who will take over for State's Attorney Paul Murphy. He resigned last week after 13 years on the job.

It's just gotten out of control, I don't think even in parliament in Britain where they yell and scream at each other, I don't think that’s even as bad as it is here,” explained Murphy as one of his reasons for resigning.

However, the board says they were in the process of forcing Murphy out for poor job performance.

“He acts as he is without fault, much of this is with his legal advice that he gave with regards to the Foster County shop that's being built, and incorrect, and did not follow the law,” stated Foster County Commission Chairman Josh Dreher.

He says because of Murphy's legal advice the county was forced to shell out $15,000 to settle a lawsuit by a contractor who bid on the county shop project and didn't get it.

"Yeah you could say it’s poor advice, hindsight is 20/20, but the board at the time based on the advice that was given to them you can say that was bad advice, but it was the board that made the call, the board made the decision to go with this bid or that bid," said Murphy in his defense.

The board also accused Murphy of not attending commission meetings adding he was slow to provide legal advice when asked.

“It seemed to be going down a path that wasn't getting better so action needed to be taken,” stated Dreher.

Murphy argues he always provided legal advice in a timely fashion. As for his attendance he claims it wasn't always the best use of taxpayer money.

“Having me sit there and watching the paint dry on the wall is a complete waste of resources, you may as well take the plow out in the middle of summer and say we are using it all year round, well great there's nothing to do,” said Murphy.

Currently there are 35 open criminal cases in Foster County; none of them are scheduled to go before a judge until February. It's unclear when they will actually take place, that will be up to the judge since there is no prosecutor.

“We need to get an attorney on board, not only for criminal prosecution but for any legal questions for all of the county departments and for the commission moving ahead with any decisions,” said Dreher.

That's not expected to be an easy task. There are only two qualified attorneys in the county, and both have expressed to the board they aren't interested in the job. So the commission is now rapping the gavel beyond county lines hoping to lure someone for the part time job that pays $40,000 a year.

“It's just going to be a matter of going through the process and move here to take the position,” explained Dreher.

The county also plans to explore a joint power agreement where the county can share a state's attorney with another county.

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