Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney (right) and his wife in a video posted to Facebook on Monday.

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney (right) and his wife in a video posted to Facebook on Monday.

Sheriff Fortney breaks his silence on failed recall attempt

In a video, he criticizes recall campaign leaders and defends actions that led to the effort to oust him.

EVERETT — For much of the past year, Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney bristled in silence as those seeking his ouster waged their campaign against him.

Not anymore.

Fortney took to social media Monday night to deliver his first response to the failed recall attempt.

In a slick 14-minute campaign-style video on Facebook, Fortney airs long-simmering grievances with the motives and tactics of recall leaders, as well as media coverage of their efforts.

He gives a full-throated defense of an April 2020 Facebook post underlying the recall allegations, in which he questioned the legality of the governor’s statewide stay-home order. In the video, he also stands by the rehiring of deputies fired by his predecessor for violating policies.

And Fortney and his wife, Jill, describe the toll of attacks, political and personal, on them and their family, an onslaught that intensified right up to March 9. That’s when the recall ended with no signatures getting turned in.

The next night Adam and Jill Fortney sat at what appears to be their kitchen table to tape the video.

“It’s over. It’s behind us and it’s why we wanted to do this video for everybody,” the sheriff says.

He couldn’t be reached Tuesday, and he hasn’t said who produced the video. The last reported contributions and expenditures to his campaign account came in 2019.

Fortney declined multiple interview requests last week from The Daily Herald to discuss the 10-month effort to oust him, signaling a desire to move on.

Apparently he had 14 minutes and 19 seconds more to say.

Posted on his campaign Facebook page, the video features a dramatic musical score. Sprinkled throughout are images such as pictures of fliers circulated by the recall group and messages of support for the sheriff received on social media.

“Jill and I don’t have it in us to be negative all the time but this recall is negative. They are negative people,” Fortney said. “I can’t imagine spending a year of my life trying to get someone thrown out of office because of a Facebook post. I think it is almost ludicrous that they went to this extent to do that.”

Reached Tuesday, leaders of the Committee to Recall Sheriff Adam Fortney steered clear of Fortney’s comments.

“We have determined that we do not intend on providing a response to anything that was said in the video,” they wrote in an email. “The members of the Committee are proud of our efforts to hold our elected officials to account. We are grateful for the support we received, and optimistic about the state of democracy in Snohomish County.”

Fortney won a four-year term by unseating his boss, incumbent Sheriff Ty Trenary, in November 2019. He took office in January and by mid-May faced two separate recall attempts.

Lori Shavlikof Monroe launched hers two days after Fortney’s viral April 21 Facebook post in which he said that Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic was unconstitutional, and that his deputies would not enforce it. Shavlik’s solo venture ended unsuccessfully in December.

Meanwhile, not long after Shavlik started, four attorneys — immigration attorney Terry Preshaw, public defender Colin McMahon, criminal defense attorney Samantha Sommerman and civil attorney Brittany Tri — launched a second effort as the Committee to Recall Sheriff Adam Fortney.

This group’s recall petition contained two charges tied to Fortney’s Facebook post and a third claim that Fortney “exercised discretion in a manifestly unreasonable manner” by rehiring three deputies fired for misconduct by the previous sheriff.

Fortney, in the video, questioned the motives of the recall effort.

“You seriously want the public to believe that the public defender attorneys want the local sheriff putting people in jail when their day job is to actively get everybody out of jail?” he said. “I mean, give me a break. The hypocrisy of these people is unbelievable and no one in the media picked up on that.”

“I’m disappointed in the media in Snohomish County,” Fortney says. “That is a very important part of the story.”

Another important part — and the allegation which potentially posed the biggest threat had the recall reached the ballot — are decisions Fortney made in January 2020 to rehire deputies Matt Boice, Evan Twedt and Art Wallin.

Fortney spends several minutes discussing the case of Wallin, though he doesn’t mention the officer by name.

Trenary, the former sheriff, fired Wallin in October 2019 concluding he violated policy both in pursuing and in fatally shooting a 24-year-old man. In a termination letter, Trenary explained there was no imminent danger to Wallin at the moment he fired the fatal shots, and he questioned the deputy’s version of events indicating there was.

As Fortney notes in the video, another investigation was conducted by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a cadre of detectives who investigate police use of lethal force. After reviewing that investigation, Prosecutor Adam Cornell wrote in July he would not pursue charges, explaining a jury would be unlikely to convict him.

“He did not murder anybody,” Fortney said. “The things that have been said by these recall people are … fabricated.”

Without admitting wrongdoing, Snohomish County agreed last year to a $1 million settlement with the family of Nikolas Peters, the Edmonds man who died in the October 2018 shooting after a high-speed chase. As part of the settlement, the family agreed to drop all claims against the county.

Fortney said he put several documents related to the rehiring decisions on the sheriff’s office website for the public to read.

The video closes with the couple, still seated at the table, thanking family, friends and members of their church.

“We are going to work extremely hard for our entire community,” the sheriff said. “No matter what side you’re on, we’re going to work for everybody over the next three years.”

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com | @dospueblos

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