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Judge says recall of Kennewick councilman can move forward

An effort to recall Kennewick Councilman Steve Young can proceed on one of seven proposed charges, a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
An effort to recall Kennewick Councilman Steve Young can proceed on one of seven proposed charges, a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled Friday. Tri-City Herald

An effort to recall Kennewick Councilman Steve Young can proceed on one of seven proposed charges, a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled on Friday.

Judge Bruce Spanner found petitioners had not shown sufficient cause, such as malfeasance or violation of Young’s oath of office, for the other charges proposed by the four Kennewick residents who filed a recall petition with the court.

Most of the charges he threw out were linked to a civil lawsuit Young lost as a Hanford manager in October 2017.

A jury found that Young aided Hanford contractor Mission Support Alliance in discriminating and retaliating against one of his employees, Julie Atwood.

The $8.1 million jury verdict is under appeal, and Young has since retired from Mission Support Alliance.

The charge the judge allowed to move forward is based on the Washington Fair Campaign Practices Act.

The ballot synopsis written by the judge alleges that Young violated the campaign law “by forwarding an email that can be interpreted as soliciting from a city of Kennewick employee a contribution on behalf of Dan Newhouse. Should Steve Young be recalled from office based on this charge?”

Spanner found enough legal and factual cause to proceed with the charge, but said it would be up to the voters to decide the truth of the charge.

Young is accused of forwarding an email to Marie Mosley, the Kennewick city manager, in June 2014 seeking contributions for a fundraiser for Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash. Young had agreed to be a “table captain” for a fundraising lunch in Richland.

Mosley replied that she would not be able to attend the lunch, but sent a $100 donation.

The Fair Campaign Practices Act prohibits a local official from seeking a political contribution from an employee in the official’s agency, said the recall petition filed with the court.

Petitioners must next gather signatures to get the issue on a ballot.

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Steve Young

The Benton County auditor will determine the number of signatures needed and whether petitioners gather enough.

The petition for recall was brought by James E. Wade, Vincent Rundhaug, Robert McClary and Charles Tamburello.

Councilman John Trumbo was not a petitioner, but Young said Trumbo asked him to resign. And Young declined.

The petitioners are expected to need about 2,675 signatures, or 35 percent of the votes cast the last time Young was up for election.

He ran unopposed in 2015 for a term that expires at the end of 2019.

The judge threw out two charges in the recall petition that were based on the discrimination and retaliation found by jurors in Young’s civil lawsuit.

The finding was unrelated to Young’s duties for the city of Kennewick, the judge said. At the time Young was serving as mayor of the city.

Another charge that the judge dismissed was related to evidence presented in the 2017 trial that Young did some Kennewick city business during the work week.

He said he made up the time by working longer hours for his employer, Mission Support Alliance.

There is no information entered in the recall case that Mission Support Alliance objected to the arrangement, the judge said. It also had no effect on the city, he said.

The judge also tossed charges that Young was hired by Mission Support Alliance because he was Kennewick mayor.

Young’s attorney, Bob Thompson, said Young had been on the council for some time before Mission Support Alliance hired him.

Young had 38 years in contract management and controls and was hired as a vice president because Mission Support Alliance needed someone to lead its portfolio management work for the Department of Energy as DOE changed its budgeting system, his attorney said.

Petitioners said he sought money for Hanford from Congress, using his standing as mayor to gain access, which capitalized on his city position to benefit his Hanford employer.

The judge said that there was no objective beyond bringing money into the greater community.

The final charge that the judge dismissed accused Young of violating his oath of office.

Annette Cary; 509-582-1533
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