High court action clears way for Quilcene recall bid

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

QUILCENE — A recall action against two fire commissioners likely will go forward after the state Supreme Court denied a motion for reconsideration Friday.

Barring further legal action, ballots in the recall attempt will be due at the Jefferson County Auditor’s Office on Nov. 13, one week after the Nov. 6 general election.

David Ward and Mike Whittaker have been under fire since 2010 over allegations of impropriety regarding the creation of a chief operating officer job for the fire district and the hiring of Ward for that position.

The recall action began in July 2011 after Quilcene Fire Chief Bob Low quit over what he described as interference from Whittaker and Ward.

Since that time, the case has been heard by the Kitsap County Superior Court, the Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court, which ruled in August that the recall can proceed.

Deputy Civil Prosecutor David Alvarez is representing the county in the action.

After the decision, attorney Shane Seaman, who represents Whittaker and Ward, filed a motion for reconsideration of that ruling, in which the Supreme Court acted Friday.

On Oct. 17, Seaman filed a “motion to stay” the election in Jefferson County Superior Court, requesting that it be postponed until the motion for reconsideration is decided.

Seaman’s motion was due to be heard at 1 p.m. Friday, the same day the recall election ballots will be mailed to voters.

Prior to the denial of the reconsideration, Seaman said the recall should not proceed because the alleged violations by Whittaker and Ward do not merit a recall.

“The only thing that still stands is the accusation that Whittaker and Ward violated the open-meetings law,” Seaman said.

“Whether or not this is true, it does not represent misfeasance or malfeasance and is not grounds for a recall.”

Seaman said the alleged violation took place at a meeting in March 2010 that Whittaker did not attend.

“Even if it is true the law was violated, Whittaker had nothing to do with it,” he said.

Peggy Ann Bierbaum, who is representing plaintiffs Linda Saunders and Harry Goodrich in the action, had criticized Whittaker and Ward for the delay.

“This latest move is yet another desperate attempt by Ward and Whittaker to deny the voters their right to recall elected officials for misfeasance, malfeasance or violation of their oath of office,” Bierbaum said.

“Since the recall petition was first filed, Ward and Whittaker have used every delay tactic at their disposal — from motions for revision, motions for continuance, motions for reconsideration, appeals to the Washington Supreme Court and motions for extension of time to file required pleadings.”

Petition-gathering began Aug. 9, with 180 days given to gather the signatures, but the petitions were completed and submitted to the Jefferson County Auditor’s Office on Sept. 9 and certified Sept. 20.

The election was then scheduled for Nov. 13, which was the only available date since regulations require that the election take place between 45 to 60 days after certification and after the Nov. 6 general election.

On Friday, Seaman said that if the election is allowed to continue, then Whittaker and Ward most likely would take their case to the voters.

The opinion was issued by the Supreme Court late Friday afternoon, at which time Seaman was not available for further comment.

At 4:39 p.m., Alvarez attached a copy of the decision in an email to Seaman.

“The state Supreme Court has reached a decision,” he wrote.

“Your move, Shane.”

________

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 20. 2012 6:08PM
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