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Rick Heiberg recall, Coulee City, Washington (2011)
Jennifer Schwartz, a former member of the Coulee City town council, was a leader in the recall effort.
Coulee City's population as of the 2000 census was about 600.
Heiberg was elected as the town's mayor in November 2009 with a 15-vote edge over his opponent. He unsuccessfully sought the seat in 2004 and 2005.
In the State of Washington, grounds must be provided to justify the recall.
Article I, §33 of the Washington Constitution says that a recall can only occur if the targeted public official has engaged in the "commission of some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, or who has violated his oath of office."
Recall leader Jennifer Schwartz itemized 11 different areas where she believed that Heiberg's behavior in office rose to the necessary level to be considered acts of malfeasance or misfeasance. Judge John Knodell, a judge in the Grant County Superior Court system, ruled in November 2010 that 2 of the 11 problems mentioned by Schwartz would rise to the level of malfeasance or misfeasance, if they did occur. Those issues were:
- Purchasing a $15,000 truck without going through the city's bid process
- Destroying a packet of allegations after a city council meeting.
In June 2011, the Washington State Supreme Court reversed Knodell's ruling. The court's opinion stated that, "In making the purchase, he [Heiberg] relied on his understanding, albeit an incorrect understanding, that the entire $15,155.87 balance in the town's equipment reserve fund was available to purchase the truck. Further, upon discovering that his actions had been improper, Mayor Heiberg promptly set out to cure his error, first by seeking ratification by the town council and, failing that, by fully reimbursing the town."
In addition to Jennifer Schwartz, recall supporters included:
- ShirleyRae Maes. Maes, a member of the town council, also co-owns the town's newspaper
- Lorna Pearce. Pearce had been the town's Clerk/Treasurer, but she was fired by Heiberg in July 2010 for differences over management style.
Path to the ballot
Jennifer Schwartz collected 114 signatures on a recall petition; once these signatures were verified as sufficient, legal action began to determine whether the grounds for the recall, as alleged, were sufficient grounds to allow a recall to proceed. Due to a decision by the Washington Supreme Court, the recall effort was not allowed to proceed.