The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Cathlamet recall heads to court


January 17, 2019

The effort to recall the mayor and three members of the Cathlamet Town Council will take another step next week.

A hearing is scheduled at 11 a.m. in Wahkiakum County Superior Court to review the proposed ballot synopsis and determine the sufficiency of charges.

Meanwhile, the council will hold a special meeting today (Thursday) at 3 p.m. in the Cathlamet Fire Hall to consider using town funds to pay, according to a notice of the special meeting, "the necessary expenses of defending [the mayor and three council members] in a judicial hearing to determine the sufficiency of a recall charge or charges as provide for in RCW 4.96.041 (3).

That section of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) states, "Action or proceeding against officer, employee, or volunteer of local governmental entity—Payment of damages and expenses of defense: (3) The necessary expenses of defending an elective officer of the local governmental entity in a judicial hearing to determine the sufficiency of a recall charge as provided in *RCW 29.82.023 [*recodified as 29A.56.110] shall be paid by the local governmental entity if the officer requests such defense and approval is granted by both the legislative authority of the local governmental entity and the attorney representing the local governmental entity. The expenses paid by the local governmental entity may include costs associated with an appeal of the decision rendered by the superior court concerning the sufficiency of the recall charge."

If the judge rules the synopsis and charges are sufficient, then those petitioning have a period of time to gather signatures of Cathlamet residents to call for an election to vote on whether or not to recall each of the four persons named in the recall.

To qualify for a ballot, petitioners must gather signatures from "legal voters equal to thirty-five percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for the office to which the officer whose recall is demanded was elected at the preceding election, according to statute.

As drafted by Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow and presented to the court, the statement of the elements of the charge against Mayor Dale Jacobson and Council Members Sue Cameron, Jean Burnham and Ryan Smith is, "The petition charges [him/her] with having, around June of 2018, joined with town councilmembers to cause the Town to buy, for $68,000, real property in Cathlamet that is contaminated, valueless, and may subject the Town to continuing expenses for monitoring and clean-up.

"The petition goes on to allege that [they] knew the property had no value and was a source of liability for the Town, and [they] helped cause the Town to buy it anyway because [they] wanted to give the Town's money to the previous owner of the real property, who is [their] friend and a former member of the Town Council.

"The petition alleges the conduct outlined above violates the Washington State Constitution's prohibition against making a gift of public funds and constitutes misfeasance, malfeasance and/or a violation of [their] oath of office."

Additionally, "The petition further alleges that Mr. Jacobson committed additional misfeasance, malfeasance or violations of his oath of office by having, since 2016, reserved a different Town-owned lot for his own private use, to park and maintain vehicles belonging to him or his business, thereby using municipal resources without compensating the town."

In general, the mayor and three council members have called the allegations baseless. They have commented privately and in council meetings that they acted within the advice of the town attorney and that they paid a reasonable price for Main Street property that, although once contaminated with gasoline, has been cleaned up under direction of the state Department of Ecology.

Recall statutes may be found in chapter 29A.56.110 of the Revised Code of Washington.


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