If the petition to recall Kennewick City Councilman Steve Young had come earlier in his term, the timing of it wouldn’t matter so much.
As it is, timing is everything.
Young’s term expires at the end of next year, and the earliest a recall petition could appear on a ballot would be either February or April 2019.
But since Young is fighting the recall effort, it’s a sure bet an appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court would delay the issue to the point where citizens would have their say anyway in a primary or general election.
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Young’s attorney, Bob Thompson – who is also the mayor of Richland – said, in theory, Young could run for re-election on the same ballot on which he is being recalled.
That makes no sense.
But even if the recall petition could be approved and a recall election held early enough to shave several months from Young’s term, would that be worth the expense to city taxpayers? We think not.
The city would have to pay the cost of the election, which officials estimate could run $20,000 or more. In addition, the city council voted Sept. 4 by a narrow margin to pay Young’s legal fees, which already total $8,525.
In Yakima last year, the effort to recall Jannelle Riddle from her position as county clerk was halted because her appeal took so long.
By the time the court ruled that the recall could continue, supporters of the effort – of which there were many – said it wouldn’t be worth the $250,000 cost to taxpayers since her term would expire within months of the vote.
If the end goal is to remove Young from office, those who want him out can still work to accomplish that without the additional expense of a recall.
Young has said he intends to seek re-election for his at-large seat, but has not made a final decision.
Instead of putting energy into recall signature gathering, the four Kennewick residents who started the petition could organize an election campaign for Young’s seat.
Vincent Rundhaug, one of the recall petitioners, said he made his decision after reading Young’s testimony in a discrimination case last year. A Benton County Superior Court jury decided against Young and his previous employer Mission Support Alliance, a contractor at the Hanford nuclear reservation, in the $8.1 million suit.
The jury in that case found that Young aided in discriminating and retaliating against Julie Atwood. After reading the document and the details of the lawsuit, Rundhaug said it is not appropriate for Young to represent the city.
However, Judge Bruce Spanner did not agree that charges based on the court case could be included in the language of the recall petition, saying they were factually insufficient.
Although Spanner allowed another claim to advance, saying it is up to citizens to decide if Young violated the Washington Fair Campaign Practices Act when he sent a fund-raiser message about an event for Rep. Dan Newhouse to an employee, Kennewick City Manager Marie Mosley.
Both Young and Mosley deny any wrongdoing. So what we have is a petition to recall a city councilman based on one disputed email exchange.
Supporters of the recall will say Young should step down and then the recall effort can go away. But there is no indication Young will make that decision – especially with only a handful of people so far pushing for his removal.
So the petitioners have to make the play, and they need to consider more than their convictions. Public time and money must be part of the equation.
Considering the timing is bad and the cost is high, we suggest they find another path to their goal.