State can’t force ex-legislator Hope to repay salary

OLYMPIA — Mike Hope became ineligible to serve in the Legislature on Aug. 19, 2013, when he signed a voter registration card in Mentor, Ohio.

But 11 months passed before anyone found out and Hope quit, a period during which the Republican representative from Snohomish County cast 503 votes and collected monthly installments of his $42,106-a-year salary.

Retaking any of those votes is not going to happen because Hope’s choice didn’t make the difference in any of the outcomes.

But what about the taxpayer dollars paid to the former Seattle cop for salary, per-diem and other job-related expenses when, as it turns out, he shouldn’t have been in office?

Looks like he won’t have to repay a dime.

“At this stage, I don’t see we have any recourse to recoup those expenses,” said Deputy Chief Clerk Bernard Dean of the state House of Representatives.

“I don’t think we can take any official action at this point.”

Hope resigned July 24. Not long after, Tim Sekerak, counsel for the state House, began asking the attorney general, the state elections director and the Snohomish County auditor about the options, and their answers made clear there aren’t any.

Under the state Constitution, the basic requirements for serving as a lawmaker are that a person be a U.S. citizen and a “qualified voter in the district for which he is chosen.”

What Sekerak needed to know was when, precisely, Hope was no longer a qualified voter in the 44th Legislative District, where he served.

Election officers make that determination; hence, the queries to Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel and Katie Blin, the legislative affairs director for the Office of Secretary of State.

They told him Hope met the requirements when he won re-election in 2012, when he was a registered voter living in Lake Stevens.

During the term, Hope had said he sold his home and began renting a place in Mill Creek — though it turns out he never updated his voter registration.

In September 2013, the county changed his status as a voter from “active” to “inactive” when election materials mailed to him were returned as undeliverable with no forwarding information.

An inactive voter is not an unqualified voter because he or she can legally cast a provisional ballot, then update his or her registration and be returned to active status.

Thus, under the law, Hope remained a qualified voter in Washington, even after becoming a new voter in Ohio on Aug. 19, 2013. He did not become an unqualified voter in this state until July 24, when Blinn, the state elections director, acting on information from Ohio election officials, directed county auditor Weikel to cancel Hope’s registration as a Washington voter.

Sekerak also wanted to know if the clock on Hope’s status as a voter could be turned back to when the transgression occurred. If so, the House could possibly set out to get some money back.

But the answer is no. Voters cannot be retroactively disenfranchised.

“A person’s voter registration status may be changed prospectively only. A cancellation cannot cancel a person’s previous or past voter registration status,” Blinn wrote Sekerak on Sept. 17.

Since the county and state had no reason or information to cancel Hope’s registration until July 24, she concluded, “I cannot say that he was not a ‘qualified voter’ during that time, at least for purposes of applying these statutes to elections and voting.”

End of story? Maybe not.

Next year, a few lawmakers who feel they and taxpayers got hoodwinked might explore tweaking state laws to give the House and Senate power to get money back from disgraced members.

While Hope is long gone, his actions won’t soon be forgotten.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com/thepetridish. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An artist’s rendering of the Amazon distribution center at the Cascade Industrial Center in Arlington.
A tax break used by Arlington, Marysville goes statewide

It’s helped land businesses in Cascade Industrial Center. Soon every city will get a chance to try it.

Breanna Schalamon take Joel Childs' orders Tuesday afternoon at Oxford Saloon in Snohomish on May 4, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Inslee orders two-week pause on counties sliding back phases

Snohomish County, and much of Washington, had braced for reversion to Phase 2 of reopening plan

Snohomish chiropractor accused of sexually touching patients

Six people reported Dr. Ken Parker touched them inappropriately. Some reports were years old. Some were new.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signs a bill into law, Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in Tukwila, Wash., that levies a new capital gains tax on high profit stocks, bonds and other assets for some residents of Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
New laws will tax the rich, offer aid to low-income workers

Inslee signs bill creating capital gains tax; foes are challenging it in court as unconstitutional.

Nobody injured in fire at Everett hearing clinic

Firefighters extinguished a roof fire around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at 4027 Hoyt Ave.

Standing on a new ramp to his home, Doug Waddell shakes hands with Dennis Taylor and Dan Barmon on April 15 in Sultan. Taylor and Barmon built the ramp for Waddell in exchange for two apple pies. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
What does two apple pies buy? A $3,500 wheelchair ramp

The kindness of two strangers, and a pie baker, helps Sultan amputee come home.

The Waterfront Place Apartments north building at the Port of Everett’s Waterfront Place cold see residents moving in by May 15. on Thursday, April 22, 2021 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Now playing at the Port of Everett: sudden density

New Waterfront Place Apartments open May 15 at the port — local retailers welcome the influx.

Bikes Club of Snohomish County on Grand Ave on their way from Everett waterfront to Snohomish Thursday morning on April 29, 2021.
(Kevin Clark / The Herald)
‘Healthy Streets’ not coming back, but Everett plans bike work

Staff review road projects for low-cost way to improve bike infrastructure. Advocates want more.

Snohomish County prosecutor Jacqueline Lawrence makes her opening statements during the murder trial of Jamel Alexander on Friday, April 30, 2021 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Trial begins for Everett man accused of stomping woman to death

Jamel Alexander, 31, is accused of first-degree murder in the death of Shawna Brune, 29, of Everett.

Most Read