Supporters of renegade county file new lawsuit

By Scott North and Warren Cornwall

Herald Writers

MOUNT VERNON — Supporters of a proposed new Freedom County are back in court again.

An attorney for the people who claim to have carved a new county out of much of north Snohomish County on Thursday filed a new lawsuit pressing the group’s claim.

"Freedom County has complied with all legal prerequisites, under the constitutions of the state of Washington, the United States of America and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to become a county, thereby becoming a county in the state of Washington," attorney Tim Robbins said in court papers filed in Skagit County Superior Court.

Robbins, a civil attorney who lives in Island County and has offices in Everett and Stanwood, was hired by Freedom County supporters earlier this year when they filed a lawsuit they had prepared on their own, attempting to force Snohomish County into a legal showdown.

Robbins moved to have that lawsuit dismissed. He has retooled the breakaway group’s case, adding the state of Washington as a defendant for failure to act on what he contends in court papers is "the express written political will of the people" to be governed by Freedom County.

"Freedom County, again?" Snohomish County Council member Dave Somers said when told of the new lawsuit.

"I just think they ought to quit wasting our time and the public’s money on this," he said. "They are just tilting at windmills."

Freedom County’s purported boundaries encompass about 1,000 square miles, nearly half of Snohomish County’s entire area. The new lawsuit argues that the new county has existed since April 1995, when backers presented the Legislature with more than 12,000 signatures calling for its creation.

Thom Satterlee and Donna Poeschel, both of Arlington, and David Guadalupe of Stanwood, all claim to have been elected as interim commissioners for Freedom County.

Satterlee has repeatedly said the election occurred on a bus ride to Olympia.

Snohomish County officials have countered that Freedom County does not exist. The state Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court have repeatedly supported that position, and a federal lawsuit brought by Freedom County proponents was tossed out of court.

The state Supreme Court in February 1998 also ruled that the mere act of gathering signatures on petitions does not create a new county. But that ruling was made as part of the court’s review of an attempt by backers of another group to form a breakaway county in King County.

Freedom County backers have maintained their situation is different, largely because petitions calling for creation of a new county here were worded differently.

Whether the group even has enough signatures has been in contention.

Freedom County supporters maintain they filed 12,439 signatures, well over the 8,700 they believe they needed to create the new county based on 1995 population levels.

Opponents argue the necessary number was closer to 15,300 signatures, and that only signatures from registered voters can be counted.

The secretary of state’s 1996 review of the signatures found that 8,100 of those who signed the petitions were registered voters.

You can call Herald Writer Scott North at 425-339-3431

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