Ellensburg area businessman Desmond Knudson late Wednesday filed with Kittitas County a petition calling for an election to recall all three county commissioners: Alan Crankovich, David Bowen and Mark McClain.
Knudson, who said he was the sole person behind the petition, alleges that the commissioners knowingly broke state law when they approved on July 19 an update of the county development regulations that contained a new county wind farm zone that takes in part of the U.S. Army’s Yakima Training Center lands on the east end of the county.
Knudson said he told commissioners and county staff that state law clearly prohibits local governments from unilaterally authorizing a land use in an area that is incompatible with a military installation.
He said commissioners adopted the 500-square-mile wind farm overlay zone anyway. The zone is pre-identified as a compatible area for future wind farm projects in the county.
“Who in their right mind as a utility company would place assets in the middle of a war zone,” Knudson said in news release on his petition. “I’ve seen our county commissioners do dumb things before, but this one takes the cake.”Knudson said he went as far as giving commissioners and county staff copies of the state law.
Knudson alleges that the action to approve the wind farm zone reflects malfeasance of office, malice of office and violation of their oath of office, the three elements that must be alleged for a recall petition to move forward to a recall election. He declined to comment, at this time, beyond what was contained in his news release.
Knudson said what triggered his filing of the petition was the commissioners’ Oct. 8 decision to appeal Gov. Chris Gregoire’s approval of the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project to the state Supreme Court. He said the commissioners’ decision to seek the appeal was improper in the face of adequate environmental safeguards for the 65-turbine project and the economic benefits the community would derive from the project planned for 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg.
According to state law, the county Prosecutor’s Office has 15 days to review the alleged charges in the recall petition and write a ballot synopsis, or ballot summary, that may appear on a future election ballot. The allegations and synopsis then go to county superior court which has 15 days during which to conduct a hearing to determine whether the allegations satisfy the criteria in state law for a recall election petition to be filed.
Commissioners Mark McClain and David Bowen this morning said the petition was inappropriate and takes county officials and staff from important county business.
“I would imagine we could cut 20 percent out of the county budget if we did not have to placate obstructionists like Desmond Knudson, Catherine Clerf, Larry Nickel and Gene Camarata, but we do,” McClain said in a prepared statement.
“While I am supportive of questioning government decisions, this petition is nothing more than a group dissatisfied with legitimate, legislative decisions attempting to advance their political agenda and is an inappropriate, and expensive, use of a process designed for violations of public trust.”
Knudson said Catherine Clerf’s name appears on his news release only as a contact person to coordinate media calls, and that she is not behind the recall petition effort.
Bowen said every citizen is entitled to his own opinions, and they have equal access to laws that seek accountability of elected officials.
“I, personally, believe there is no validity to the recall petition whatsoever,” Bowen said. “The court will sort it out. In the mean time, I have pressing county business to tend to.”
Knudson’s charges include the allegation that Bowen lied about his comments made about former county public works director Paul Bennett. Knudson said Bowen denied having accused Bennett of derelict of duty.
Bowen said he had no additional comments about this allegation, indicating his earlier comments covered it.
Knudson also alleges that the commissioners also knowingly allowed the county to be found not in compliance with the state’s Growth Management Act, are seeking a Supreme Court appeal against the wishes of county citizens, and allowed public records to be “mysteriously destroyed.”
Word about the recall petition spread Wednesday afternoon. Kittitas County Republican Party Chairman Matt Manweller said the public shouldn’t take Knudson seriously, and that his action was “a PR stunt, not a serious attempt to engage in a legitimate political process.”
“A small group of zealots are trying to hijack the political process to pursue a personal vendetta, and they don’t really care who they hurt in the process,” Manweller said in a prepared statement.
He said state law has very strict legal standards for recall and “this petition doesn’t even pass the laugh test. It will be summarily rejected by any superior court.”
Kittitas County Farm Bureau President Urban Eberhart said the bureau supports the county commissioners and opposes the petition. He said it was an unnecessary and unwarranted attempt by a group to draw attention to themselves.
By Mike Johnston
11 October 2007
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