Cathlamet residents file recall petition for mayor, 3 councilors
January 3, 2019
A group of Cathlamet residents have filed petitions to hold recall elections for Mayor Dale Jacobson and Council Members Sue Cameron, Jean Burnham and Ryan Smith.
Under Washington law, elected officials may be recalled for misfeasance or malfeasance in office. A recall petition is submitted to the county prosecuting attorney for drafting a ballot title and synopsis, which are delivered to the officers subject to recall and also to the superior court, where a judge will review the petitions to approve the synopsis and to determine the sufficiency of the charges.
If the charges are approved, an election will be held.
The petitioners say the council members should be recalled for misfeasance and malfeasance of office and for violation of oath of office. The petitioners also claim the mayor committed the same offenses and also used his position to gain special privileges.
The first charges stem from the council's decision to purchase property owned by Bernadette Goodroe at the corner of Main and Chester streets. The land was once the site of a gas station which had a leaking underground storage tank. The contamination has been cleaned up, and Goodroe allowed it to be used as a parking lot.
Recall charges filed against all four claim that a representative of the Washington Department of Ecology notified town officials last March that the property was subject to a restrictive covenant because of previous gasoline contamination requiring any purchasers to take on financial responsibility for monitoring contamination and any future cleanup that becomes necessary.
Prior to purchase, the town retained an appraiser who, in her report, noted that the site had been a gas station and that the appraisal was completed under "the hypothetical condition that there is no last environmental impact on the subject site." The appraiser valued the lot at $40,000.
"Despite having knowledge of the above described problems in the Property, Mayor Jacobson advocated for the purchase of the Property to the Cathlamet City Council and conspired with City Councilors Ryan Smith, Sue Cameron and Jean Burnham to purchase the Property for $68,000 as a gift of public funds to Goodroe," the recall petition states.
Further, the petition states that a representative of the engineering firm Maul, Foster, Alongi informed the town that the cost of monitoring the contaminated property would be $36,000 over the next five years, and that the mayor and four council members "remained intentionally ignorant of the exact amount of these costs, and thereby kept their constituents ignorant of the exact amount of these costs . . . "
The four caused the town to purchase "the contaminated property from Bernadette Goodroe, and, thereby, make a gift of public funds . . . in violation of Article 8, Section 7, of the Washington State Constitution."
In addition, the petition states that Mayor Jacobson exercised control over town owned property across 2nd Street from his house. The town parcel abuts a parcel owned by Jacobson.
The petition states that Jacobson parks vehicles on the property and exercises control over its use by other people.
"Although Mayor Jacobson has not leased this property or otherwise compensated the City of Cathlamet for its use, he treats the property as his own by using it for his business, excluding others from using the property, and granting conditional permission to some city residents subject to his direction and control," the petition states.
Further, state law says, "No municipal officer may use his or her position to secure special privileges or exemptions for himself, herself or others."
The mayor and council members haven't yet filed responses to charges, which will also be examined in superior court.
The petitioners are represented by the lawfirm of Walstead Mertsching PS of Longview, and signed by Cathlamet resident Bill Wainright who is described in the petition as a member of the Concerned Citizens of Cathlamet.
"These people are square pegs in round holes," Wainwright commented Monday. "It's not a personal vendetta. We've got to right the ship and move forward. It's about Cathlamet, not people."