Voters recall two Quilcene Fire District commissioners

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

QUILCENE — Voters have resoundingly recalled two Quilcene Fire District commissioners who were accused of falsifying minutes.

Dave Ward and Mike Whittaker faced separate recall actions in Tuesday's election.

In Ward's case, 483 votes, or 60.75 percent, were cast in favor of his recall and 312 votes, or 39.25 percent, were opposed.

In Whittaker's case, 479 votes, or 59.95 percent, were cast in favor of recall, and 320 votes, or 40.05 percent, were opposed.

“I really didn't care. I knew it could go either way,” Whittaker said Tuesday night.

“There is so much stuff that Dave [Ward] and I had to deal with that we don't have to deal with anymore — all of a sudden, the slate has been wiped clean,” he added.

“If people didn't appreciate what we were doing, then they are welcome to elect whoever they want.”

Ward could be immediately reached for comment.

Linda Saunders, a plaintiff in the action said that the results were what she expected.

“I thought we'd get around 60 percent,” she said.

“It gives us the justice we need. Now we can clean house.”

Of the 1,406 ballots issued, 807 were received at the Jefferson County Auditor's Office, for a voter turnout of 57.39 percent.

All the ballots received have been counted, said County Auditor Donna Eldridge, adding that a few more may trickle in.

The next ballot count will be when the election is certified Nov. 27, Eldridge said.

Since both Whittaker and Ward were recalled, the Jefferson County commissioners will appoint one person to the board and that person — along with the third commissioner, Herb Beck — will fill the second vacancy.

Saunders said that a loose coalition of citizens will make recommendations, possibly three names, to the commissioners.

Allegations of improper conduct stemmed from the board's creation of an $800-a-month job for Ward in January 2010.

Ward was paid to retrieve and decipher district data from outdated computer disks.

At issue in the recall was whether Ward, with Whittaker's complicity, asked district secretary Jean Morris to modify the minutes to approve Ward's enrollment in the Public Employees Retirement System — or PERS — to qualify him for a pension.

Recall proponents filed the original paperwork August 2011.

That was approved by Court Commissioner Keith Harper, who was elected this month as Superior Court judge.
Whittaker and Ward appealed the action to Kitsap County Superior Court in October 2011, and Judge Anna Laurie struck down all charges except one concerning the falsification of minutes.

Whittaker and Ward took their case to the state Court of Appeals, which allowed the recall, then appealed twice to the state Supreme Court, which supported the prior ruling.

Whittaker has declined to say how much he and Ward spent for their defense.

Both fire commissioners were unopposed when they last ran for office, with Whittaker getting 554 votes in 2009 and Ward receiving 510 votes in 2007.
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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 14. 2012 11:27AM
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