Monroe recall effort advances

MOUNT VERNON – A judge on Friday ruled that a petition to start a recall campaign against Monroe City Councilman Ken Berger has merit, giving recall supporters six months to collect signatures to advance the measure.

“I’m pleased. I feel like the court heard us,” said Meredith Mechling, who filed the petition in February with former City Councilman Jim Hunnicutt.

Hunnicutt and Mechling, who is married to former City Councilman Marc Mechling, aim to collect about 1,000 signatures by late September from registered voters in Monroe to put the recall on the ballot. A majority of voters would have to approve for Berger to be recalled.

Putting the recall on the ballot would cost between $1.50 and $3 per registered voter, depending on the size of the election, a county official said.

Berger said he thinks it’s unfortunate the recall issue may cost the citizens of Monroe money.

In the petition, Hunnicutt and Mechling say that Berger should be recalled for allegedly violating state campaign finance rules.

In October 2006, Berger agreed to pay the state $20,000 to settle allegations that he concealed his identity as a contributor in city elections.

The allegations developed when former City Councilman Mike Donow told state regulators that he contributed $1,500 to the campaign of Bob Holman in 2001 and $150 each to the campaigns of Chad Minnick and Tom Layson in 2003. Holman lost to Hunnicutt in 2001.

Donow told state officials that the money was actually from Berger in each instance.

State rules make it illegal not to disclose the true source of a campaign finance donation.

State regulators issued a $5,000 fine on Donow, but suspended $3,200 of the total because he disclosed the incidents and cooperated in the investigation.

Skagit County Superior Court Judge Michael Rickert decided to let the recall petition advance after a court hearing Friday. The hearing, originally scheduled in Snohomish County Superior Court, was reassigned to Rickert.

The change of venue was made to prevent any conflict of interest, because Berger is a Snohomish County attorney, according to a court clerk.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or

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