Environmental groups seeks to join lawsuit against citizen in Critical Areas Code case – want right to initiative taken from voters

  by Anne Wagner
Citizen Review Online

Clallam County, WA – 8/15/01 – Bob Forde, an ordinary citizen, became an activist several months ago when he helped get Initiative No. 6 (an initiative to repeal the Clallam County Critical Areas Code) moving along.  It happened as a result of his learning from various friends and neighbors how they had been caught up in the red tape of regulations and huge fees as a result of the code, and how many weren’t allowed to use a portion of their property, but still had to pay taxes on it.

Bob and a group of citizens – not formally organized, but referring to themselves as the committee to repeal the Critical Areas Code – got busy and worked hard to acquire the more than 3,000 signatures to get the issue on the ballot.  When the deadline arrived, they had more than 3,800 signatures collected.

Bob turned in the signed petitions, the auditor validated and approved them, and presented them to the county commissioners, as called for by the Clallam County Home Rule Charter.

Two of the three county commissioners apparently wanted to deny the voters of Clallam County from ever seeing the initiative on the ballot, however.  First with one ploy, which failed, then with another, Commissioner Steve Tharinger (D), joined by Commissioner Mike Doherty (D) decided to turn the matter over to the court to decide, by way of a “declaratory judgment.”  Commissioner Mike Chapman (R) stood firm with his demand that the county charter be followed, only to be overruled by the other two.

Several days later, Bob was served with the lawsuit.  He alone was named as “defendant”, representing the “committee to repeal the Critical Areas Code”.  It is Bob’s opinion that the reason he was the sole name on the suit was to crush him for having spoken out against the Critical Areas Code.  “What about the other 3,780 people who signed the initiative?” he wondered.  “How can I represent them when I don’t have expertise or money for attorney’s fees?”  Bob works in the private sector as a salesman in Sequim.

On August 15, Bob filed a motion to dismiss the case, stating that the court doesn’t have the jurisdiction over the matter, as it is a political question, not a legal question.  He also stated that the court lacks jurisdiction over him, as he is not a representative nor can he fairly or adequately represent the voters who signed the petition. Also, the others who signed the petition were not named as defendants along with him.  He concluded by asking the court to instruct the county commissioners to immediately comply with the county code – to hold the required hearing and place the initiative on the ballot.

Meanwhile, other forces were at work.  Protect the Peninsula’s Future (PPF), along with 1000 Friends of Washington, two environmental organizations, filed a motion with the court asking to be allowed to participate in the lawsuit against the initiative.

Eloise Kailin, president of PPF, is well-known for her use of lawsuits to get her way when people, cities or counties don’t go along with what she wants.  Kailin lives near the tribal center in Blyn, near Sequim, on Sequim Bay tidelands.  She most recently sued the county to increase the regulations and buffer sizes on the Critical Areas Code, and won.  The suit cost the county taxpayers approximately $75,000 in attorney fees. 1000 Friends of Washington is out of Seattle area, and is a statewide organization.

Both organizations want the court to find the initiative invalid and beyond the scope of the initiative power of the people.  They also want the County to be forbidden to submit the initiative to the people for a vote, both during the court proceedings and permanently. Their claim is that their “right to public participation, that is guaranteed by the GMA (Growth Management Act), will be ‘threatened’ if critical areas ordinances are allowed to be approved or revoked by the initiative or referendum process.”

1000 Friends claims that its “members are interested and involved in public participation processes for the development of critical areas ordinances throughout the State”. What the organization fails to say is that this is a local issue, not a state issue (the state GMA mandates each individual county which qualifies to develop “a” critical areas code – not this particular critical areas code – and does not spell out what the requirements are to incorporate).  The non-local organization also says it believes it has more rights than the people who live in the county do.  As to “public participation”, one wonders why they do not consider voting to be just that.  Each of their members’ voices who reside in the county would count as much as anyone else’s!

1000 Friends states further in their motion that in this case, “1000 Friends will be directly affected by the outcome of this Court’s ruling as to whether the proposed initiative is  beyond the scope of the initiative power of the people.  1000 Friends has as one of its objectives to “seek proper implementation of the Growth Management Act state-wide and in particular the provisions of the Act that direct the legislative authority [the county] to develop legislation to properly designate and protect critical areas.  Members of 1000 Friends find their quality of life substantially improved by the proper protection of critical areas.”  Forde questions what the meaning of the word “proper” is, as it’s a subjective type of word, open to interpretation from one person to the next.  He also wonders how their quality of life would be affected at all, since the majority of their members don’t even reside in Clallam County.

1000 Friends goes on to say “It is 1000 Friends’ right to be able to take part in the public participation process mandated by the state legislature in every city and county of the state when the legislative authority develops its Critical Areas Code.”  Forde wonders where they got such a right – they weren’t elected to the position, nor were they even appointed by the legislature to represent the citizens of each county.

The court date is set for August 24, 2001 at 1:30 p.m.

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