Clallam Critical Areas issue takes twists

by Roger Harnack
Peninsula Daily News

Clallam County, WA - Sept. 5, 2001 - Legal action over the Clallam County Critical Areas Ordinance took more strange twists Tuesday with two more judges recusing themselves from hearing the case and a document served on county commissioners during a meeting.

"It's wild cards," Eloise Kailin, president of Protect the Peninsula's Future (PPF) said of the legal wranglings late Tuesday.

Kailin's group has filed to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Clallam County and the Critical Areas Ordinance, which governs development near streams, wetlands and slide areas.

Two other groups - 1000 Friends of Washington and the Building Industry Association of Washington - are also seeking to intervene in the case.

A lawsuit filed by the county seeks to pre-empt a citizen's initiative from appearing on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.  The initiative would repeal the ordinance.

Kailin, who supports the Critical Areas Ordinance, and Bob Forde, the property rights activist leading the effort to void the law, both learned late Tuesday that Superior Court Judges Ken Williams and George Wood recused themselves from hearing the lawsuit and related motions.

Possible conflict of interest

More than a week ago, Judge Pro Tempore Gary Sund of Sequim recused himself from the case after Forde suggest a possible conflict of interest involving a former business relationship between Sund and lawyers in the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney's office.

Superior Court Judge Pro Tempore and Family Court Commissioner William Knebes will apparently hear motions related to the case at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles.

And Knebes may also be hearing a motion filed Aug. 31 by John Bennett of Sequim - a Libertarian Party ally of Forde's - to compel Clallam County commissioners to show cause why they have not directed the initiative be placed on the ballot in accordance with the Clallam County Charter.

Commissioners Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, Mike Chapman, R-Port Angeles, and Mike Doherty, D-Port Angeles, were served with the motion to show cause during a meeting Tuesday.

That hearing has been set for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in Clallam County Superior Court, according to court documents.

Bennett said Tuesday he filed the motion to "force commissioners and the auditor to put this on the ballot."

"Then at least the people will have a chance to speak their mind," Bennett said.  "This is an attempt to get commissioners to follow the law.  That's what I want them to do, just follow the law."

Critical of process

Kailin called the process "disjointed" and "sloppy", but said she is happy that a hearing might finally take place.

"I want to see the motion to intervene and then we need to get the meris of the case itself heard," she said.  "We'll be perfectly willing to be heard by Commissioner Bill Knebes."

Forde said he will agree to Knebes hearing the case, but still wants answers as to why Williams and wood have recused themselves.

"They are elected Superior Court judges and this thing has elevated itself to more than just a simple little dispute," Forde said.  "No matter how the ruling goes, this will probably end up in the state Supreme Court."

Forde, too, said the wild turn of events in the Critical Areas Ordinance lawsuit is puzzling.  "I don't know what's going on here," he said.  "There's obviously more than I am seeking.  But frankly, I don't know what it is.  All I ever wanted was for this thing to go on the ballot."

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