Kittitas County Superior Court Judge Michael Cooper on Friday dismissed Desmond Knudson’s petition for a recall election against county commissioners, saying it wasn’t legally or factually sufficient to support his allegations that commissioners violated their oath of office and the law.
Cooper’s decision, coming after a Thursday court hearing, said Knudson’s charges against Commissioners Alan Crankovich, David Bowen and Mark McClain had no factual basis and don’t rise to the serious violation-of-law level required before a recall election can be considered.
Cooper said the allegations leveled by Knudson against the commissioners ” … were acts of discretion in the exercise of the authority and duties of commissioners.”
“Officials may not be recalled for their discretionary acts absent manifest abuse of discretion,” Cooper wrote.
Knudson, when contacted for comment Friday, said he wanted to hold off on a full reaction until he could read Cooper’s order.
“Of course, I’m disappointed,” said Knudson, an Ellensburg businessman. “It’s obvious to me and many other people that the public doesn’t want these commissioners. I guess I didn’t provide enough proof, but my reading of the recall law says I don’t have to prove the truth of my charges.”
County Prosecutor Greg Zempel said Cooper reached the same conclusion that he reached in his legal briefs and his arguments on Thursday.
“The commissioners are not subject to recall in the making of the discretionary decisions they have authority to make,” Zempel said.
Cooper ruled there were no facts or evidence submitted by Knudson that showed that the commissioners committed malfeasance, malice or violated their oath of office in their enactment of ordinances updating the county’s comprehensive plan and development code, or in their appeal of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s approval of the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, a wind farm planned for 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg.
Cooper said no facts were presented that demonstrated that commissioners acted “with knowledge of falsity or with reckless disregard for the truth … ” in approving the development code that contained a wind farm overlay zone in east county. He said Knudson didn’t show how the action affected, interrupted or interfered with the performance of the commissioners’ official dues or was an unlawful act.
He said Knudson’s “vague notion” that the majority of the public doesn’t want commissioners to pursue legal appeals of the governor’s wind farm decision and appeals of decisions by the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board “is not a basis to support violation of oath of office.”
In response to Knudson’s allegation that Bowen lied in comments made about a dispute connected to former county Public Works Director Paul Bennett, Cooper said no facts were presented showing how it violates the oath of office, and no proof was shown that Bowen denied making the statements.
By Mike Johnston
10 November 2007
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