Friday, January 5, 2007

Prosecutor and School Board Recall

Yesterday the King County Prosecutor's Office rejected a petition by the Committee to Stop All School Closures to have a recall vote for five members of the Seattle School Board. The person who filed has now refiled, fixing the procedural technicalities Maleng's letter outlined. Parent fixes, resubmits School Board recall papers, Seattle P-I, Jan. 5, 2007.

Now what's the prosecutor's role in a school board recall? Prosecutors prosecute, right? What's that got to do with the school board dispute?

The King County Prosecutor is also the county's lawyer, and handles a lot more than criminal prosecutions. The Criminal Division of the office is the largest; the other divisions are Fraud (a special class of crimes), Family Support, and Civil.

So, what's the recall procedure? Step 1:

Whenever any legal voter of [in this case, Seattle] * * * desires to demand the recall and discharge of any elective public officer of [Seattle], under the provisions of sections 33 and 34 of Article 1 of the Constitution, the voter shall prepare a typewritten charge, reciting that such officer, naming him or her and giving the title of the office, has committed an act or acts of malfeasance, or an act or acts of misfeasance while in office, or has violated the oath of office, or has been guilty of any two or more of the acts specified in the Constitution as grounds for recall. The charge shall state the act or acts complained of in concise language, give a detailed description including the approximate date, location, and nature of each act complained of, be signed by the person or persons making the charge, give their respective post office addresses, and be verified under oath that the person or persons believe the charge or charges to be true and have knowledge of the alleged facts upon which the stated grounds for recall are based.
RCW 29A.56.110 (emphasis added). Step 2. The petition is filed with "the elections officer whose duty it is to receive and file a declaration of candidacy for the office" (RCW 29A.56.120) -- in this case, the King County REALS Division. Step 3. If the political jurisdiction is all within one county (the Seattle School District is), the the county prosecutor has 15 days to prepare a ballot synopsis of the charge and (a) send it to the person who filed the charge and (b) send it to the superior court and ask the court to approve it and determine the sufficience of the charges. RCW 29A.56.130. Step 4. The court gets 15 days to have a hearing and rule on whether the acts are sufficient for a recall and whether the ballot synopsis is OK. RCW 29A.56.140. Step 5 (optional). The decision about the sufficiency of the charges can be appealed to the Supreme Court. Id. Step 6. The court transmits the ballot synopsis to the person asking for the recall, the officer in the hotseat, and the county auditor. Id. Step 7. The recall sponsors go out and try to get signatures in the next 180 days. RCW 29A.56.150. If they get at least 35% of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for the office (school board), then they file the petitions with REALS. RCW 29A.56.180. More Steps. It goes on. The signatures have to be verified (by statistical sampling) and then there can be a special election. And so on.

In this case, the prosecutor rejected the petition at Step 1 because there was one petition for five school board members, it wasn't notarized, and the petitioner didn't give his address. See letter from Janine Joly, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. (Why didn't the prosecutor give the guy a break? A Supreme Court case says that the statutory requirements for recall petitions have to be interpreted strictly. In re Recall of Wasson, 149 Wn.2d 787, 792-93 (2003).) The petitioner went back to the drawing board and resubmitted.

1 comment:

Dwight Van Winkle said...

Thank you for your very interesting blog. If you are interested, pleadings from the Seattle school board recall case are posted here:

Dwight Van Winkle
Attorney for recall petitioner Eric Dawson