Snohomish County, WA: Group sues to force vote on Sultan's form of government

By Cathy Logg
Everett Herald Writer


SULTAN, WA-- A local political action group filed a lawsuit Tuesday to force the city to put on the ballot an initiative seeking to change the city's form of government.

The suit, filed in Snohomish County Superior Court by the group ProSultan, asks the court to direct the council to adopt a resolution for a special election Feb. 4.

The group had gathered enough signatures to have the measure put on the September primary ballot, but the City Council decided to delay the vote to allow residents time to cool down.

The initiative asks voters to abandon the council-mayor form of government in favor of council-manager, with an appointed city manager who would answer directly to the council. Currently, an independently elected mayor acts autonomously on many things.

The lawsuit was formally served at Wednesday night's council meeting. Several council members declined comment.

"I need to find out exactly what it's about and what the motive is," explained councilman Dustin Boucher. "We need a full-time professional to improve fiscal responsibility and separate politics from government. Those who favor continued amateurism have unwittingly demonstrated that," said Perry McPherson, the group's chairman as well as a council member, in a prepared statement.

Angry citizens have packed numerous council meetings since August, when Rowe attempted to oust police Chief Fred Walser.

When Walser refused to quit, Rowe placed him on administrative leave with pay. He ordered Walser back to work after the city spent more than $20,000 in legal bills defending Rowe's actions and police overtime to cover staff shortages, McPherson said. For many, that was the last straw, McPherson said.

When the council voted on the resolution, Council members McPherson, Jeff Everett and Mark Raney asked their counterparts to let the citizens decide within 180 days whether they want to change the form of government.

Instead, Councilman Bruce Champeaux proposed delaying the vote until late 2003, saying they shouldn't make such a decision in the heat of controversy.

Also at Wednesday's meeting, the council sparked new controversy as it voted to change which newspaper gets its legal ads.

Cities choose one newspaper for publishing all of their legal notices -- such as meeting notices and legal ads -- and declare that their legal newspaper.

Sultan recently put out a call for bids, getting them back from the Sky Valley Weekly News, the weekly Monroe Monitor and The Herald.

During the meeting's public comment period, several people said they did not want to see the ads in the Sky Valley Weekly News, which is based in Sultan.

The council narrowly voted against a motion for The Herald to retain the city's legal ads. Next, the council tied in its vote regarding the Sky Valley paper. Mayor Rowe broke that tie in the weekly paper's favor.

That didn't make 15-year-old Brennan Deveraux happy. Earlier this month he became an unofficial member of Sultan City Council as a student representative.

At the end of the meeting, Deveraux took the council to task for its decision.

"There were numerous comments from people who strongly didn't want the Sky Valley Weekly News, and the majority of those here don't want it," he said. "I was disappointed that we couldn't give the people what they wanted."

Applause from the audience filled the small council chambers. A few people even cheered "Brennan for mayor!"


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