By Garrett Estrada
Ely Times Staff Writer
With the county filing period coming to a close, few races ought to match the interoffice intrigue faced by the two candidates running for the office of District Attorney.
Incumbent Kelly Brown and Deputy District Attorney Michael Wheable both filed to run for the position, despite the fact they both work at the courthouse, often in conjunction on cases.
“For him to decide to run against me, I was a little bit surprised by it,” Brown said.
As he comes to the end of his first four-year term as District Attorney, Brown described working with Wheable as a “good working relationship.” Following the chain of command, Wheable currently reports directly to Brown, who would review cases and delegate them out to one of his two deputies.
“If there was anything he felt that we weren’t doing right, he certainly has had the opportunity to come talk to me about it,” Brown said, in reference to what he called an open door policy in the office.
According to Wheable, his filing was not meant as a slight to his current boss, but rather a continuation of his passion for serving the county as a prosecutor. Though he had only been a deputy district attorney for two years, Wheable said he has handled a high volume of cases, including a high profile meth trafficking case in 2012 that sent Gerald Herline to 10 years in prison.
“My ambition is not for a salary increase or clout in the community,” Wheable said. “I think there could be a different direction in the office that could benefit the community.”
Unlike an employee trying for a traditional promotion, District Attorney is an elected position, meaning he would have to oust his boss for the job. The problem is the election isn’t until November, and without another candidate in the race, there will be no primary to potentially eliminate one or the other. With both men simultaneously having to work together on cases and campaigning against each other, the question turns to how the long campaign period will affect their ability to continue work as usual in the office.
When asked if that conflict will affect their working relationship, Brown said he hopes the campaign doesn’t change anything between them during work hours.
“I will do my best to make sure it doesn’t, as I’m sure he will, but we will see,” Brown said.
Wheable said he handed Brown a letter letting him know that he would exercise his right to run for the position. In it, Wheable says he has always respected Brown. The Deputy District Attorney made it clear that there would be a separation between working together on cases and the impending campaign.
“We are just keeping the campaign completely out of the office and focusing on the cases because that is what the public deserves,” Wheable said. “If I thought it would interfere with my duties, I would quit the race.”
While Brown has been in the news recently after former employee Kirsty Pickering filed a defamation lawsuit against him, Wheable said he plans on keeping the campaign away from negativity.
Instead, he said he intends to run on his strong track record as a prosecutor, good relationship with the police department and his vested interest on keeping the county a safe place to raise his family.
According to Brown, there are many other facets to being the District Attorney. He feels his 18 years of courtroom experience and his good relationship with the county commission prove he’s primed for another four years.
“I’d love to be in the courtroom, but unfortunately that’s not this job. That is the job of a deputy,” Brown said.
The filing period for the county will close at the end of office hours Friday. At the time of this writing, no other candidates had filed for the District Attorney’s office.