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News / Clark County News

Eyman: Light rail foes to sue city

Vancouver council has refused to accept failed petition that seeks a vote

By Stephanie Rice
Published: February 5, 2013, 4:00pm

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Tim Eyman, a Mukilteo resident who has made a name for himself challenging taxes and policies statewide, said a group of local petitioners will file a lawsuit against the city of Vancouver by Friday.

Eyman’s declaration came after the Vancouver City Council on Monday didn’t acknowledge an earlier threat to either accept a failed petition that seeks a public vote on light rail or face a lawsuit.

Petitioners are trying to raise $20,000 to retain Everett attorney Stephen Pidgeon, a Republican who made an unsuccessful bid for state attorney general.

“Despite repeated attempts by Larry Patella, Debbie Peterson, and other citizens to engage you in a discussion this evening, you refused,” Eyman, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, wrote in an email to city councilors. The email was copied to members of the media and light rail opponents.

“Their attorney, Stephen Pidgeon, provided you with a good faith opportunity to avoid costly litigation. Tonight, you refused. It’s a shame. This was a completely avoidable expenditure of money that will be costly to the citizens you’re elected to represent,” Eyman wrote.

Meanwhile, City Attorney Ted Gathe sent an email Tuesday to Pidgeon, telling him he had factual errors in his Feb. 3 letter to the mayor and council.

Gathe told Pidgeon that only nine signatures were invalidated because of an error in how the petition circulator filled out the affidavit. Pidgeon’s letter gave the impression that a significant number of names were tossed because of a circulator’s error, Gathe said.

Also, Gathe pointed out that the city charter doesn’t address the issue of duplicate signatures.

“Duplicate signatures were invalidated by the County Auditor solely on the basis of RCW 35.21.005(7), which you yourself point out has not been invalidated by any court,” Gathe wrote.

The lawsuit would challenge the state law.

‘See you in court’

Three light rail opponents signed up to speak Monday; only Peterson ignored Mayor Tim Leavitt’s request to follow council rules and speak only about items on the agenda.

Light rail opponents worked for more than two years to gather enough signatures to petition the council for a public vote on light rail.

In April 2012, they were told their effort failed. But under the Vancouver city charter, they were given extra time to collect additional signatures.

Last month, they learned their petition fell 32 signatures short of the 5,472-signature requirement.

More than 8,000 signatures were tossed, including all those from people who signed the petition multiple times.

Voters would have decided on a proposed ordinance that would have prohibited any city resources from being used to extend TriMet’s MAX line from Portland to Vancouver.

Eyman wrote in his email that so far, the petitioners have found 24 people who signed the petition more than once and who have agreed to be plaintiffs in the case. They need a total of 33 plaintiffs whose signatures were rejected because they signed more than once.

The city council could have acted on Monday, Eyman wrote.

“You chose instead to go with the ostrich approach, putting your heads in the sand hoping that ignoring the problem would make it go away. That doesn’t work in life, in business, or in politics. Debbie Peterson and her team will now move full steam ahead on fundraising for Mr. Pidgeon’s services and their lawsuit will be filed later this week,” Eyman wrote.

“It is your failure to listen and respond to Vancouver’s voters that forces us to say, with sincere regret, see you in court,” he wrote.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.