Peter Goldmark recall, Public Lands Commissioner, Washington (2009)

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A recall petition to recall Peter Goldmark was dismissed by an Okanagon County Superior Court judge on January 19, 2009. Goldmark is a Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands.[1]

The recall attempt, filed by open government activist Arthur West, stemmed from an inter-agency, inter-local cooperation agreement between the state's Department of Natural Resources and the Washington State Association of Counties, a taxpayer-funded lobbying association.

The agreement allowed for the joint funding of a position to support the Washington Forest Practices Board, which sets the state's policy on forest practices as well as Endangered Species and Clean Water Act issues.

Allegations

The recall petition alleged that...

" (T)he Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark knowingly approved unlawful expenditures on behalf of the Washington State Association of Counties, (WSAC), to unlawfully appoint private assistants to perform services for the DNR in regard to the Forest practices and Natural Resources Boards under an interagency interlocal agreement under color of RCW 39.34. Under the provisions of RCW 39.34.050 the Public Lands Commissioner is required to specifically approve such agreements within 90 days. The Washington state Supreme Court has held that...”Public agencies cannot use interlocal cooperation agreements to shield themselves from their obligations and responsibilities under the law.” (See Harvey v. Snohomish Co. 124 Wn. App. 806, 103 P.3d 836, 2004) In addition, the Court of Appeals has recently recognized that RCW 39.34 does not apply to purely private organizations.  Chapter 39.34 RCW, the Interlocal Cooperation Act, permits local governments to cooperate with other local governments. RCW 39.34.010 Hous. Auth. v. City of Pasco, 120 Wn. App. 839 at 847, 2004... A public agency includes Indian  tribes,...cities, counties, special purpose districts, and agencies of the state government.(RCW 39.34.020). Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Skagit County, 138 Wn. App. 771, (2007)

Unfortunately, despite the clear Legislative intent and plain wording of the Statute that only public agencies participate in Interlocal Agreements, the WSAC steadfastly maintains that it is not a public agency, making any interlocal agreement between it and the DNR unlawful and an unconstitutional use of public funds in an attempt to privatize DNR policy development. Further, since the agreement provides for clerical and technical support staff for the WSAC representatives to the Forest Practices Board and Board of Natural Resources, the interagency agreement is contrary to the following statutes, which require that such clerical and support staff be employed pursuant to law by the Boards themselves. RCW 79.06.030 (6) provides...The (Forest practices) board may employ such clerical help and staff pursuant to chapter 41.06 RCW as is necessary to carry out its duties. RCW 43.30.225 provides that the Board (of natural resources) shall...(2) Employ and fix the compensation of technical, clerical, and other personnel as deemed necessary for the performance of its duties; RCW 43.12 further prescribes the manner that the Commissioner can appoint assistants. By authorizing an interagency interlocal agreement for the joint performance of governmental activities in violation of the above, the commissioner violated his oath and duties of office, committing mis and malfeasance. These actions took place On or about July 8, 2009, and in the 90 days following the execution of the interlocal cooperation agreement. By authorizing payments of State funds to WSAC (a private organization) for support of the Forest Practices and Natural Resources Boards the Commissioner unlawfully appropriated State funds in a manner not in accord with the law and in violation of his duties and oath.. By so acting the Commissioner of Public Lands committed the following:..Misfeasance" or malfeasance" in office means any wrongful conduct that affects, interrupts, or interferes with the performance of official duty; Additionally, "misfeasance" in office means the performance of a duty in an improper manner; and Additionally, "malfeasance" in office means the commission of an unlawful act; "Violation of the oath of office" means the willful neglect or failure by an elective public officer to perform faithfully a duty imposed by law...."

Path to the ballot

The petition was denied by the Superior Court on the basis that no proof was submitted that the Commissioner actually was aware of the contract. Following the filing of the recall petition, the disputed Contract between WSAC and the DNR to jointly fund a position supporting the Forest Practices board was terminated, as of January 6, 2010. On January 22, 2010, a Thurston County Judge found the WSAC to be a public entity subject to the Sunshine Laws.

References