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Group expected to file an effort to recall Inslee

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | May 18, 2021 1:00 AM

OLYMPIA — A group seeking to recall Gov. Jay Inslee was expected to file paperwork with Washington Secretary of State late Monday accusing Inslee of “lawless conduct” and misuse of power in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The filing, expected around 10 p.m., was the first part of the lengthy Washington recall process, which requires at least two allegations of malfeasance or violation of the oath of office against an elected official and must be heard by a superior court judge before signatures can be gathered for a recall election.

“We’re committed to working for American values,” said C Davis, head of Recall Inslee, who has been leading the effort since late January.

Davis, who is not an attorney, said the group’s five-member legal team believes Inslee stepped outside the law when he explicitly prevented people from gathering at church as part of the original “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation issued on March 23, 2020, violated the right to publicly assemble by suspending portions of the Public Meeting Act, prevented landlords from filing court cases as part of the effort to halt evictions during the pandemic, and illegally declared a state of emergency in the first place.

“The initial order included some very restrictive mandates, and some were only for faith-based organizations,” Davis said. “When the governor prevented people from meeting in houses of worship, he violated the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.”

In his March 18, 2020, proclamation blocking evictions, Inslee prohibited residential landlords from “initiating judicial action,” a prohibition Davis said upends long-established court precedent in Washington establishing a clear separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government.

“It prohibits a certain class from having access to the courts,” Davis said. “The separation of powers is very clearly defined.”

Davis also said under state law, the governor only has power to declare an emergency in the event of “public disorder, disaster, energy emergency, or riot” and not in the event of a public health crisis.

“There’s no provision for a state of emergency for medical reasons,” Davis said.

The same paragraph of state law — the Revised Code of Washington Title 43, Chapter 6, section 10, paragraph 12 — notes the emergency declared must affect “life, health, property, or the public peace.”

Davis said he expects the process to take time. The filing will be given to the Secretary of State, who must then pass it on to the Attorney General, who must then write a synopsis of the charges and present them to a superior court judge — most likely in Thurston County — within 15 days.

“That’s the court by default, but we could petition to change,” he said.

Davis said he expects the first major fight in this battle to be with Attorney General Bob Ferguson over the language in the synopsis. But he also expects any superior court decision, which can only evaluate the sufficiency of the charges and not whether they are true, to be appealed.

“This will end up in the state Supreme Court,” he said.

If the courts determine the charges are sufficient, recall organizers will then have 270 days — nearly nine months — to gather signatures equal to 25% of those who voted in the gubernatorial portion of the 2020 general election demanding a recall election.

“The courts do not determine the truth of the charges. That’s determined by the people,” said Davis. “It’s a trial where the jury is the jury of public opinion. It’s not judicial, and it’s not political. It’s a strange combination of the two.”

Davis, who worked in information technology and as a semi-professional musician for much of his life, said he got into politics because he had come to believe the system is broken and people of good conscience need to step in and fix it.

“I avoided it until a few years ago, but it is not sufficient for any of us people to say, ‘Somebody else should do it,’” he said. “We need to do more than vote.”

In 2018, Davis said he ran for the Washington state legislative seat currently held by Laurie Dolan, D-Olympia, and the Thurston County Commission in 2020.

The Recall Inslee effort’s website is recallinslee.org.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.