SNOHOMISH — Karen Guzak has served as mayor for seven years. At least some in this city hope this will be her last in that role.
Bill Betten, a Snohomish truck driver, has filed a recall petition with the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office. It alleges that Guzak has committed malfeasance, misfeasance and violated her oath of office.
Among other issues, it claims that Guzak violated her oath of office by requiring people to sign in and provide their name and addresses to participate in city council meetings. Betten contends that violates the state’s open public meetings law.
The petition also says that Guzak failed to create an open government committee as required by the city’s municipal code, using $10,000 of tax money on a “null and void” committee.
Guzak denies the allegations. “At this point, all I can say is that I absolutely deny any wrongdoing, and I am proud of my service to the City of Snohomish,” she said. “I look forward to the process that will reveal the truth.”
Guzak said she didn’t think any of the issues raised in the petition “will carry any weight for a recall.”
In January, Guzak was unanimously re-elected by her fellow council members to serve a two-year term as mayor.
Misfeasance is something performed in an improper way, said Garth Fell, elections manager in the county Auditor’s Office. Malfeasance is wrongful conduct that affects, interrupts or interferes with an official’s duty and is an unlawful act, he said.
Betten also has been involved in an effort to change the city’s council-manager government, in which the city manager takes charge of the day-to-day running of the city. The proposed change would eliminate the city manager’s position and an elected mayor would run the city.
Recalls against local government officials are difficult to pull off, in part due to legal requirements that must be met before the issue goes to the ballot. However, Pacific Mayor Cy Sun was recalled in 2013 and Spokane Mayor Jim West was recalled in 2005.
The Guzak recall petition will be reviewed by the county’s prosecuting attorney’s office. A hearing may be scheduled by a Superior Court judge.
If a hearing is scheduled, a judge would determine whether the complaints meet the legal criteria for potential recall, Fell said.
If a Superior Court judge feels a public official’s alleged actions meet the criteria for either malfeasance or misfeasance, citizens involved in a recall effort would be required to collect signatures asking for the issue be placed on a ballot.
In Guzak’s case, it would take 703 signatures of local voters to get the issue put before voters, Fell said.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.