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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Judge tosses challenge to West recall effort

A Chelan County Superior Court judge on Friday handed Spokane’s recall proponents another legal victory in their drive to oust Mayor Jim West.

Judge T.W. Small tossed out a petition by civic watchdog Steve Eugster seeking to invalidate a large signature drive that began at the end of August.

“I’m pleased. Justice prevails again,” said recall sponsor Shannon Sullivan, who has won four straight court hearings and appeared at Friday’s hearing on her own behalf.

Her most pivotal victory was an Aug. 24 decision by the state Supreme Court that found her recall petition to be legally sufficient to move ahead.

Also on Friday, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said her office has passed the halfway point in validating the 12,567 signatures needed to qualify the recall for a mail-in ballot.

Proponents of the recall submitted 17,343 petition signatures on Sept. 21. The next day, Eugster and his Coalition for a New Spokane filed a lawsuit in Spokane County Superior Court seeking to block the county auditor from validating the signatures, arguing that petition gathering was not legal because the state Supreme Court had not issued its written opinions, which are needed for a legal decision.

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander wrote in an Aug. 24 order that the recall petition initially drafted by Sullivan but later revised by a Superior Court judge was “factually and legally sufficient.” The court said its written opinions would be forthcoming.

In court on Friday, Eugster argued that the order by the court did not constitute a legal decision because it did not include the court’s written opinions.

“This is absolutely the law in the state of Washington,” he said.

Sullivan told the judge during a short presentation Friday that she “had heard a lot of legal technicalities today,” but for a person without a law degree it appeared the Supreme Court’s Aug. 24 order was in fact a decision.

Small agreed, saying it was clear to him that the Supreme Court’s order was in fact a decision.Small denied Eugster’s petition for either a writ or a declaratory judgment blocking the auditor from validating signatures and putting the measure before voters. An appeal by Eugster is expected.

Small was appointed to hear the case so Spokane County judges could avoid any possible conflict of interest, since they have worked with West over the years.

Also in court Friday were attorneys representing West, Dalton and recall proponents.

Dalton said a mail-in election on the recall would likely be held on Dec. 6 because a new state law requires that the auditor validate the Nov. 8 general election results on Nov. 29.

Previously, Dalton had said she might be able to schedule the recall date on Nov. 29, but at the time, she had neglected to consider that a new state law extends the period for general election validation to 21 days after voting.