Clark County will pay for the legal defense of the three councilors named in Republican Councilor Tom Mielke’s recall petition, those same three councilors decided Wednesday.
At its weekly board time meeting, the Clark County council voted 3-2 to spend county funds defending Republican Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Julie Olson, and Chair Marc Boldt, no party preference, in Mielke’s recall petition. The petition, filed June 28, describes concerns over the hiring of an investigator to look into allegations leveled against Republican Councilor David Madore, the council’s decision to award a contract for legal advertising to The Columbian, County Manager Mark McCauley’s dissolution of the Environmental Services Department, and limited access to lawyers as examples of the other councilors’ wrongdoing.
Falling along predictable lines, Stewart, Olson and Boldt voted in the majority, while Mielke and Madore voted no.
Madore and Mielke both said it would be a conflict of interest for the councilors to vote to fund their own legal defense.
“I’m not quite sure how legitimate it is that you vote yourselves outside counsel when you are going to benefit from it,” Mielke said.
But Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Jane Veto cited state law that justified the councilors’ decision that the county should pay for their defense.
“There’s pretty clear precedent that what we’re doing is appropriate,” Olson said.
The decision was followed by a heated exchange when Madore asked how much funding exactly the council had approved. Veto said she needed approval that the county could look for a new attorney before providing more concrete answers on the cost.
“It would be interesting to see how much you just voted yourself,” Mielke snapped to his fellow councilors.
But Olson pinned the blame for the expenditures on Mielke.
“You created the conflict by the way you wrote the petitions,” Olson said.
“You created the conflict by the actions you took,” Mielke retorted, chuckling.
“Well, we’ll find that out,” Olson said.
County Prosecutor Tony Golik said in a voicemail that the prosecutor’s office forwarded the issue along to the state Attorney General’s Office, which will have 15 days to write a ballot measure. The item will then be forwarded to a Clark County Superior Court judge for review within another 15 days.
If that judge finds the councilors acted wrongfully, Boldt, Olson and Stewart could appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. If the case is upheld, the petition process would begin. A validated petition would trigger a special recall election.