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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ione town council members face recall petitions and voter registration challenges

IONE, Wash. – A new member of the Ione town council who filed recall petitions against the mayor and two other council members had his voter registration revoked after the Pend Oreille County auditor determined Friday he no longer lives in Ione.

The ruling could undermine Councilman Michael Piccirilli’s ability to make the recall charges or to remain on the council.

Auditor Marianne Nichols’ decision only applies to Piccirilli’s voter registration. Questions of his eligibility to hold elected office were not considered. That kind of challenge would need to go through a court, not the auditor’s office, Nichols said.

Piccirilli is still allowed to submit a new voter registration application by updating his current address, which apparently is in Metaline Falls about 10 miles north of Ione.

“The voter, by their own admission, is residing in the Town of Metaline Falls,” Nichols concluded.

Piccirilli said he plans to sue the county for violating his constitutional right to vote and due process. He said the decision was based on hearsay and unsubstantiated evidence.

“It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever read in my life. I can’t wait to sue them,” he said. “I am going to drag them into federal court and bankrupt Pend Oreille County.”

Piccirilli ran unopposed for his seat in the November election.

His recall charges, filed in December, allege that Mayor Eva Marie Warren, Councilman Michael Shipley and now-former Councilman Ken Timmerick broke open meeting laws last summer by attempting to hold a vote over email.

Warren denied the allegation, saying no vote was held until the next council meeting.

Timmerick resigned in December because of extensive travel he has planned. Pend Oreille County Superior Court Judge Lech Radzimski dropped the recall charges against Timmerick since he is no longer an office holder.

At a hearing last month, Warren and Shipley argued that Piccirilli lacks standing to bring the recall challenges because he is not a resident.

After Piccirilli declined to answer Radzimski whether he is in fact a resident of Ione, Radzimski postponed the next hearing to wait for Nichols’ decision on the voter challenge. The hearing is this Thursday.

Piccirilli said the postponement was unfair of the judge.

“When the recall was filed, at that time, I was a legally registered voter,” Piccirilli said. “He shouldn’t have waited to see if maybe I wouldn’t become one.”

Ione resident Pollianna Dickinson-Jones filed the voter challenge against Piccirilli in January. Her challenge included sworn testimony of her knowledge that Piccirilli has not lived in Ione since before October 2023. She included photos of the manufactured home listed on his voter registration at a trailer park in Ione, at 804 W. Blackwell St., No. 5.

The photos show snow on the grounds and front steps, with no footprints or signs of snow removal.

“The home is clearly vacant,” Dickinson-Jones wrote.

Her packet included copies of signed certificates of service from the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office for notices related to the recall delivered to Piccirilli at his current address at Pend Oreille Apartments in Metaline Falls.

Dickinson-Jones also testified at a hearing at the auditor’s office on Wednesday, saying she spoke with neighbors and the owner, who confirmed he no longer lived there.

In a sworn affidavit submitted before the hearing, Piccirilli acknowledged that he no longer lives in Ione and said he is temporarily living in Metaline Falls, but argued that this is lawful because he intends to return.

“No, I do not ‘live’ at the address listed on my voters registration in the traditional sense,” Piccirilli wrote. He is keeping it as his non-traditional address for voting purposes.

Piccirilli said the rent doubled, so he could no longer afford to live there.

“It was through no fault of my own I was displaced,” he wrote.

He said he looked, but could not find anywhere else in town within his price range. He plans to save enough to buy an RV and then rent a space at the trailer park, which would be more affordable.

“I got a temporary solution in Metaline Falls and am saving to get my RV so I can move back to Ione just as soon as possible,” he wrote.

He said he hasn’t registered to vote anywhere else.

Nichols disagreed that this is a valid reason.

“While a lack of affordable housing is a well-known struggle throughout Pend Oreille County, it is not one of the statutory exemptions,” she wrote in her decision.

On his ability to keep his elected office, Piccirilli attached a blog post from the Washington Municipal Research and Services Center that says in certain circumstances elected officials can temporarily live outside their jurisdiction and remain in office, such as if their house burns down and they are unable to find other housing in their jurisdiction, as long as they have an intent to return.

Piccirilli anticipates the judge in the recall case will now reject his petition and the mayor will not allow him to vote on the council.

Ione Clerk-Treasurer John Cannon said that the town does not have an ordinance for qualifications to serve on the town council, but follows state law.

The state law says that to qualify to hold an elective office, a person must be a registered voter of the precinct they represent.

Piccirilli argued that what matters is that he was a resident of Ione when he filed to run for office last May.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.