A judge on Friday dismissed a petition to recall all three Kittitas County commissioners.
The petition, filed by Ellensburg businessman Desmond Knudson, charged the commissioners with malfeasance, misfeasance and violating their oath of office because they appealed Gov. Chris Gregoire’s approval of a wind farm northwest of Ellensburg. It also cited several other land-use decisions the commissioners have made.
But Kittitas County Superior Court Judge Michael Cooper ruled Friday that the petition was insufficient.
“There is no factual basis to support any of the charges against any of the commissioners,” Cooper wrote in his ruling, a day after hearing from both sides in court.
And even if there was a factual basis for them, the charges stemmed from the commissioners’ “discretion in the exercise of their authority” and did not rise to the threshold of recallable offenses, he wrote.
Knudson, who represented himself at the Thursday hearing, said he is likely to appeal.
“I’m bummed out,” he said. “But I’m not going to go away crying because I lost a decision.”
Commissioner David Bowen said he and fellow board members Alan Crankovich and Mark McClain were pleased by the ruling and hope to put the matter behind the them.
“(Recall) is a system that was put in place for gross misconduct in office,” he said. “In this case, I didn’t think it was warranted.”
Knudson filed the recall petition saying he believes most Kittitas County residents disagree with the commissioners on the wind farm issue. The commissioners declined to permit the 65-turbine Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, proposed for a site 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg. The project’s developer, Horizon Energy of Houston, appealed to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which approved the project. Gregoire gave final approval in September, prompting the appeal from the commissioners.
Knudson thinks they ought to just drop it and he told the court Thursday that most people in the area agree with him.
“They don’t listen to their constituents,” he said.
The appeal, however, is part of the process and within the commissioners’ authority, Cooper ruled.
The ruling came earlier than expected, after Cooper concluded Thursday’s hearing by saying he would decide the matter next week. State law says judges must rule on recall petitions within 15 days of their filing. Friday was the 15th day, but Cooper said he wanted to give himself some leeway because he hadn’t received all the written arguments from both sides until right before the hearing.
“The reason I said ‘next week’ is there’s a court rule provision that allows the court for good cause to enlarge the time frame otherwise provided by statute,” Cooper said in a telephone message to the Yakima Herald-Republic. “And I was just trying to buy myself some time in case I didn’t get it done. ? I wanted to make sure I had all my bases covered.”
That is within judges’ discretion, said Ryan Shannon, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office. Ultimately, Cooper didn’t need the extra time.
By Pat Muir
10 November 2007
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