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Fire district recall set for November 13

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November 1, 2012

Washington

By Kelly O'Keefe

QUILCENE, Washington: Fire commissioners Dave Ward and Mike Whittaker are used to fighting fires, but over the past 16 months, they've had to fight a recall effort aimed at removing the pair from office. On November 13, the duo will face voters in a recall election in Jefferson County[1] The recall effort was launched in June 2011 after local citizens accused Ward and Whittaker of falsifying commissioner meeting minutes and violating the Open Public Meetings Act. According to the accusations, Ward directed a secretary to falsify meeting minutes to make it appear as if the fire board had authorized the district's participation in a Public Employees' Retirement system. Whittaker approved the minutes, despite knowing that they inaccurately reflected what had actually happened at the meeting.[2] Ward and Whittaker also came under fire for their creation of a chief operating officer job for the fire district and the hiring of Ward for that position.[3]

In accordance with the laws governing recall in Washington, a judge had to verify that the charges against the recall targets were sufficient to warrant a recall effort. Judge Anna Laurie approved one of the five charges against Ward and Whittaker. In August of this year, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that a possible violation of the Open Public Meetings Act represented sufficient cause for a recall effort. Sufficient recall signatures were submitted in September, and the single-issue, all mail-in recall election was scheduled for November 13, 2012.[4]

After the court's ruling, Shane Seaman, the lawyer for Ward and Whittaker, filed a motion for reconsideration of the Supreme Court's ruling. Seaman also filed a motion to postpone the mailing of election ballots until the Supreme Court decided whether it would reconsider the case. The motion for reconsideration was denied, and ballots were mailed as scheduled.[3]

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