Hearing for Quilcene fire commissioners recall slated

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND— The motion to approve a recall election for two Quilcene fire commissioners will be considered in Jefferson County Superior Court at a hearing tentatively set for 2:30 p.m. Friday, July 29, at 1820 Jefferson St.

Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Craddock Verser has recused himself, and the case will be heard by a Kitsap County Superior Court judge, according to attorney Peggy Ann Bierbaum.

The action was filed June 30 by Bierbaum after several citizens confronted Commissioners Mike Whittaker and David Ward, stating the intention to file a recall petition if the two did not resign.

Charges in amendment

Whittaker and Ward stayed put, and the filing was amended July 14 to include additional charges against Ward.

According to the filing, Ward falsified the minutes of a meeting to indicate an agenda item had been addressed when it had not.

The motion states Ward gave orders to falsify meeting minutes to indicate that the district had entered Ward into the Washington State Public Employee Retirement System when that action had not taken place.

Leading up to the hearing, the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has filed a petition for approval of ballot synopsis, which includes the charges against Whittaker and Ward.

The judge will rule on the validity of the claim, either dismissing the charges or allowing a recall to proceed.

Recall requirements

If the petition is approved, recall supporters must gather signatures equal to 35 percent of the votes cast for the race in the last election.

Both commissioners were unopposed in their last election, with Whittaker receiving 554 votes in 2009 and Ward receiving 510 votes in 2007.

For a recall election to go forward, proponents would need to gather 194 signatures to recall Whittaker and 179 to recall Ward.

The fire department has been troubled with allegations of improper conduct by Whittaker and Ward over the board creating an $800-a-month job for Ward in January 2010.

Ward did not return a call for comment about the recall.

Whittaker said he intended to write his own summary of events and would submit it at the court hearing.

“It’s going through the process, and there isn’t a lot I can do right now,” he said.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 17. 2011 10:02PM
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