By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
An online “petition” urging a recall of District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold has almost 2,400 names so far.
But if you added your name thinking you’ve taken action to recall the West Seattle/South Park councilmember – you have not.
Certainly, a popular online petition like this is a major sign of discontent. However, state law spells out an entirely different process to remove an elected official. We looked into that, and into whether anyone had actually initiated that process.
Whenever any legal voter of the state or of any political subdivision thereof, either individually or on behalf of an organization, desires to demand the recall and discharge of any elective public officer of the state or of such political subdivision, as the case may be, 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.
For the purposes of this chapter:
(1) “Misfeasance” or “malfeasance” in office means any wrongful conduct that affects, interrupts, or interferes with the performance of official duty;
(a) Additionally, “misfeasance” in office means the performance of a duty in an improper manner; and
(b) Additionally, “malfeasance” in office means the commission of an unlawful act;
(2) “Violation of the oath of office” means the neglect or knowing failure by an elective public officer to perform faithfully a duty imposed by law.
The petition has to be filed with King County Elections, which in turn would have the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office review it, and then it would go to a Superior Court judge. If the judge ruled it valid, then signatures would be gathered over an up-to-nine-month period. How many signatures? “… legal voters equal to twenty-five percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for the office to which the officer whose recall is demanded was elected at the preceding election.” That would be a quarter of the 35,959 votes cast for District 1 City Council in November 2019 – 8,990.
If all that happens, a special election would be set for between 45 and 90 days later, and a response to the charges would be sought. The recall would require only a simple majority vote. (Herbold would not otherwise go back before voters until 2023, if she runs for a third term.)
We checked with KC Elections to see if this process had been initiated for Herbold; so far, it has not. As you might have seen in citywide media, though, there is an active recall effort for Mayor Jenny Durkan (whose first term ends next year) and as of this morning, KCE spokesperson Halei Watkins tells WSB, a petition has just been filed seeking the recall of Councilmember Kshama Sawant (a previous attempt, Watkins says, was rejected last month as incomplete).
The online petition in support of recalling Herbold was started by Tim McConnell, who says he is not planning to pursue the formal process – he launched the Change.org site primarily as a way to express frustration with Herbold on issues such as the police budget cuts. He has tried to talk to her personally, McConnell told WSB, but she hasn’t returned his messages. He says he’s heard from many people who feel their concerns aren’t being heard either, and he hopes that this visible display of discontent will help her understand that, even if no one else pursues a formal recall.