OLYMPIA — It will be September before the state Supreme Court decides whether an attempt to recall Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney can proceed.
Justices have set Sept. 10 to consider the merits of a recall petition accusing the first-year sheriff of violating his oath of office and committing misfeasance. It’s not certain a ruling will be issued that day.
Justices will review San Juan County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Loring’s June 12 order approving four of five charges in the petition filed by a group of Snohomish County attorneys on behalf of the Committee to Recall Sheriff Fortney.
Fortney’s lawyers appealed directly to the Supreme Court to overturn Loring’s decision.
In two of the charges, the recall committee accuses Fortney of endangering “the peace and safety of the community” by stating that he would not enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order and inciting the public to violate the statewide mandate. Those stem from an April 21 Facebook post by Fortney.
The other two charges accuse the sheriff of exercising his “discretion in a manifestly unreasonable manner” by rehiring three deputies who had been fired for misconduct by the previous sheriff and by swiftly absolving a deputy of misconduct, within hours of learning that the white sheriff’s employee tackled an African-American medical worker who was accused of jaywalking.
If the Supreme Court upholds Loring’s decision, the committee will have 180 days to collect the necessary number of signatures to get the recall measure on a ballot.
Leaders of the recall hoped to get a determination in July. In a news release, they said that although the Legislature has acted to get recall appeals handled within a 30-day time frame, the Court sets its own schedule based on court rules.
Mark Lamb, an attorney for Fortney, said the more time the better for this debate.
“The more time people spend reviewing their claims and looking at their charges, the less credible they look,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fortney did not seek Supreme Court review of a recall petition filed by Monroe resident Lori Shavlik. Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning allowed Shavlik’s recall effort to go forward on May 15. So far, the two groups have acted independent of each other.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @dospueblos.