County sues citizen over initiative process - 
court case starts Aug. 24th

  by Sue Forde
for Citizen Review Online
www.citizenreviewonline.org

Clallam County, WA 8/23/01 Clallam County has decided to sue a private citizen in an attempt to prevent a validated initiative (Initiative 6 - Repeal of the Critical Areas Code) from going to the ballot box in November for the voters' decision - a decision which could affect the people's right to the initiative process across the state. (The Washington state constitution and the home rule charter of Clallam County both grant the right of the people to create legislation by initiative.)

Chris Melly, assistant prosecuting attorney for Clallam County, had advised the county commissioners at a public meeting on July 24, 2001 that it would be a viable idea to go to the court for a "declaratory judgment" instead of allowing the matter to go to the voters, as the county home rule charter (constitution) required.

Only one of the commissioners, Mike Chapman (R), refused to go along with the idea, demanding that the board of commissioners comply with the law.  The other two, Mike Doherty (D) and Steve Tharinger (D) decided to intercept the voters' decision in favor of taking it through the legal system. 

A few days later, Melly served Bob Forde, one of the citizens who had gotten the initiative going in the first place, as "defendant" in the lawsuit.  He was the only one named.  Forde said he believes an attempt is being made to "shut him down", as the county is aware that he doesn't have the financial resources to hire an attorney in his defense.  He will be defending himself.

Melly named Forde as "sponsor" of the initiative, and as the "representative" of the "committee to repeal the Critical Areas Code" - a "committee" made up of the over 3,800 individuals who signed the petition to place the matter on the ballot.  Forde says he doesn't have the knowledge (not being an attorney) nor the finances to represent the people who signed the petition - and has requested that the court dismiss the case on the grounds that the county should have named all the signers as defendants, not just him.  He also makes the case that this is a political issue, not a legal issue, and that the voters should be allowed to decide.  

On August 24th, Protect the Peninsula's Future (PPF) - (Eloise Kailin), along with 1000 Friends of Washington, a statewide organization, will be asking the court to allow them into the case on the side of the county, against Forde.  (see "Environmental groups seek to join lawsuit")

The entire case was initially set for August 24th; however, Forde learned that the elected judge - Judge Woods - will be out of town, and that the court had planned to have a local attorney sit in on the case.  He requested the court date be moved to Sept. 7, which has been done.  (However, the court is requiring that the hearing to allow PPF and 1000 Friends into the lawsuit will still be heard on Aug. 24th.)

Bob Forde can be reached at 360-681-6955, days, or 360-681-3023 after 6 p.m.

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