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VIEW DOCUMENT: Black Diamond reels from resignation and apparent investigations of city attorney

In a rapidly evolving story, Black Diamond is reeling from a series of moves involving key city personnel.

Heading the list was the sudden resignation Nov. 21 of City Attorney Loren Combs, who appears to be the subject of separate investigations by the state auditor’s office, the state attorney general’s office and the King County prosecutor’s office.

The day before the resignation of the city attorney, City Administrator Leonard Smith was placed on administrative leave.

Details surrounding Smith’s situation have not been released, but check the Web site for news and information as it arrives.

The Reporter has filed a public document request for the background check on Smith.

He was hired by the city Oct. 1 following the termination without cause of former City Administrator Gwendolyn Voelpel Sept. 25.

The issues with Combs involve allegations about billing practices. A letter was sent to state Auditor Brian Sonntag from 31st District state Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Greenwater. Hurst served as a commander on the Black Diamond police force for 25 years.

In the letter, Hurst stated:

“I have been in contact recently with both former and current officials with the city of Black Diamond and was provided with written documentation yesterday involving allegations against Loren Combs, who has been operating as legal council for the city of Black Diamond for some years. After reviewing the documents last night, I was concerned that a number of the allegations, which involve significant over billing, double billing and possible fraud, appear to rise to the level of requiring the notification and assistance of your office to protect the public interest.”

Hurst noted in the letter he provided Jim Brittain, an investigator with the auditor’s office, with the information he had concerning Combs.

The representative also stated he had contacted Attorney General Rob McKenna and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.

Hurst said during a phone interview, “As a general rule I don’t like to get involved in city affairs. But I felt this rose to the level. I was contacted by former and current city officials and they provided me with enough information where I felt I had to get involved.”

Yvonne Ward was appointed as interim city attorney by Mayor Howard Botts.

Ward stated via e-mail she will be interim city attorney until Dec. 31 and will assist the city in finding a permanent replacement.

Black Diamond City Council members met in executive session Nov. 21. According to sources, Combs attended the meeting, but after some discussion among council members, Botts and the interim city attorney, two police officers walked with Combs out of the meeting.

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