Effort to recall Madore, Mielke afoot

Meeting Saturday; successful campaigns rare in Washington

By Erin Middlewood, Columbian special projects reporter

Published:

 
photoClark County Commissioners Tom Mielke, from left, and David Madore

Recall meeting

What: Meeting to consider options for action against Clark County Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke.

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: International Association of Fire Fighters Union Hall, 2807 Fruit Valley Road.

Former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard advocated for recall of David Madore and Tom Mielke at a packed Clark County commissioners meeting earlier this week.

It wasn't an idle threat. He and others will meet Saturday to consider how to direct their outrage over the two commissioners' decision to force out Clark County's environmental services director and then replace him with Republican state Sen. Don Benton.

"Citizens need to wake up. There's a rotten smell coming out of our county building," Pollard said.

Saturday's meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. at the International Association of Fire Fighters Union Hall, 2807 Fruit Valley Road.

"It's a bipartisan meeting," said Linda McLain, a Vancouver accountant who is working with Pollard to organize the gathering. "There's people from all over who are interested in this."

McLain said participants will learn about the recall process, but will also consider other avenues for action.

Successful recall efforts in Washington are rare. On June 25, Pacific City voters will decide whether to recall Mayor Cy Sun. He is accused of using the police department as his personal investigative force, and jeopardizing the city's liability insurance coverage by not filling vacant department head positions.

In Clark County, it's been almost 30 years since a recall measure has landed on the ballot. In November 1983, Ridgefield voters narrowly approved a recall of Mayor John Roe. The year before, Washougal voters soundly rejected a recall of Mayor Mike Johnson.

Recall campaigns in Washington must go through four steps, said Katie Blinn, assistant director of policy for the Secretary of State's office.

• First, recall proponents must prepare a charge alleging a specific act of misfeasance, malfeasance or violation of the elected official's oath of office.

"Misfeasance" means performing a duty in an improper manner, and state law defines "malfeasance" as the commission of an unlawful act. Violating the oath of office generally relates to official duties.

The county prosecutor has 15 days after receiving a charge to formulate a ballot synopsis.

• Then the prosecutor submits the charge and ballot synopsis to Superior Court. Within 15 days, the Superior Court judge considers whether the charges, if true, amount to misfeasance, malfeasance or a violation of the elected official's oath of office.

Courts apply a very strict interpretation of those terms, so this is the stage when most recall efforts end, Blinn said.

Some, including Pollard, have alleged that Mielke and Madore must have met in violation of the open-meetings law to act as swiftly as they did in hiring Benton. But courts in the past have rejected claims of open-meetings violations as sufficient for recall, Blinn said.

Elected officials may appeal the Superior Court decision to the state Supreme Court, which is supposed to expedite the case, but it can still take months for a decision, Blinn said.

• If the case is upheld, the third stage is the petition process, Blinn said. To put a recall measure on the ballot, petitioners would have to collect 25 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last election for that office. For Madore, that would be 39,549 signatures, and for Mielke, 44,053.

• The final step is the recall election, which must take place at least 45 days after the petition is found to be sufficient, but no more than 60 days later, Blinn said. A law taking effect in July will extend that time period to 90 days.

If a majority of voters cast ballots to recall one county commissioner, the vacancy would be filled by the remaining two from a list of candidates prepared by the ousted official's political party.

If two commissioners were removed from office, the governor would appoint one replacement, and the new commissioner, along with the still-sitting commissioner, would appoint a third.

Any replacement would have to run in the next election to retain the office.

Neither Mielke nor Madore returned The Columbian's calls about the nascent recall effort. Stuart said he would not attend Saturday's meeting, but otherwise had no comment.

Erin Middlewood: 360-735-4516; http://www.twitter.com/emiddlewood;http://facebook.com/reportermiddlewood;erin.middlewood@columbian.com.