Activist plans to continue recall battle

Peninsula Daily News


Clallam County, WA - 9/20/01 - Libertarian John Bennett of Sequim plans to continue his effort to recall County Commissioner Steve Tharinger despite recent court setbacks.

“I’m still committed to the fact that Mr. Tharinger has not lived up to his oath,” Bennett said Wednesday.

Tharinger, D-Sequim, was unable to be reached for comment and a family member said he would be “out” all day Wednesday.

            Bennett began the recall process last Friday.

            But since filing the paperwork – which alleges Tharinger has not conducted his commissioner duties as prescribed under the county charter – two Clallam County Superior Court judges have ruled county commissioners followed the charter in a recent dispute over the county Critical Areas Ordinance.

            Bennett, a doctor and property-rights activist, was actively involved in trying to repeal the ordinance, which governs development near streams, wetlands and slide areas.

            Tharinger was on of two commissioners who voted in the majority to ask a judge to prevent the repeal measure from going on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.


Judges’ rulings

            Superior Court Pro Tempore Judge William Knebes ruled the repeal “void” Tuesday.  And Judge George L. Wood reaffirmed the ruling, calling the effort to have the repeal petition put on the ballot unnecessary Wednesday.

            But the two decisions will not necessarily affect the recall effort.

            Under state law, once a recall is initiated, the county prosecuting attorney has 15 days to draft a synopsis for the recall.

            That synopsis then goes to the Superior Court for review of the synopsis and a determination of “sufficiency.”

            “It’s a procedural matter,” Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Shea said.       

            Under state law, the court can hear arguments on the ballot synopsis and whether or not the allegations meet state requirements.

            But state law prohibits further argument.

            “The court shall not consider the truth of the charges, but only their sufficiency,” according to Revised Code of Washington 29.82.023.


Recall election process


            Once certified by the court, the recall petition advances to the county auditor.           

            The county auditor determines how many signatures must be gathered for a recall petition to go to election.

            In this case, 6,257 signatures are needed, Clallam County Elections Coordinator Patty Rosand said.

            Since the commissioner position is voted on countywide, the signatures of registered voters can be collected countywide.

            If enough signatures are collected, the measure will be slated for election.

            A simple majority vote determines whether an elected official will be recalled, state law says.

            If a recall is successful, the elected official is simply removed from office.


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