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Rick Ensey recall, Yakima, Washington, 2009

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An effort to recall Yakima City Council member Rick Ensey was launched on August 26, 2009 and judicially invalidated on September 28, 2009.[1]

The grounds for the recall included allegations that Ensey violated the state Open Public Meetings Law by lining up council votes via email for an April vote. The intent to recall was filed by Charlotte Jones and Gene Rupel. On September 28, a Superior Court judge ruled that the recall lacked proof that Ensey violated the state Open Public Meetings Act by working with other council members to pass a change in city budget policy.[2]


Specifically, Jones and Rupel argued that Ensey was part of an effort to secure a majority of votes to change the budget policy in advance of the April 2009 meeting, a hot topic issue in the community. In an effort to secure their allegation, Jones and Rupel submitted photocopies of emails obtained from Ron Bonlender, the former council member who was defeated by Ensey in 2007.[3]

Prior to the Ensey recall, a suit filed by Yakima attorney Tim Schoenrock against Ensey and council members Kathy Coffey, Micah Cawley and Bill Lover was dismissed. The suit argued that the council members violated the Open Public Meetings Law.[4]


Council member Ensey said, "Very rare for anyone to file them and it's very rare for them to move on to any sort of actual election." Ensey called the recall "harassment" and doubted that the recall effort would go further than a court hearing. Additionally, Ensey said that he believed the effort behind the recall wasn't just Jones and Rupel but Bonlender, a former city council member whom he defeated in a 2007 election. Bonlender later sued Ensey for defamation of character. The case was later settled out of court.[4]

Legal action

On Tuesday, September 1, 2009, the Yakima City Council voted 4 to 2 to pay for outside legal counsel to defend Ensey against the recall petition. Recall opponents argued that the petition was "politically motivated and baseless." Before the recall could have been placed on the ballot, a judge first needed to rule on the court case.[5] The city council ultimately voted against re-evaluating the decision to pay Rick Ensey's legal fees. Councilwoman Sonia Rodriguez suggested limiting the attorney fees and re-evaluating the earlier decision but her motion was defeated. Councilwoman Kathy Coffey said, "We decided to support him as a council and I just think we have a moral obligation to stick to our word and continue to do that."[6]

A court date was scheduled for September 25, 2009.[7] On September 28, 2009 Superior Court Judge Michael McCarthy ruled that the recall petition lacked proof that Ensey violated the state Open Public Meetings Act by working with other council members to pass a change in city budget policy.[2]

See also