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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ione councilman at the center of recall and residency challenges resigns

Newly elected Ione town councilman Michael Piccirilli, left, lost his voter registration after the Pend Oreille County auditor determined Friday he no longer lives in Ione. Piccirilli has filed recall petitions against fellow councilman Michael Shipley and Mayor Eva Marie Warren.  (James Hanlon/The Spokesman-Review)

An Ione, Washington, town councilman who brought failed recall petitions against fellow council members and lost his voter registration has resigned.

Michael Piccirilli sent his resignation in an email to the town clerk on Monday.

“While I know I have every legal right to hold my political position, that I was a legitimate candidate when I ran for office, won my election legally by a majority vote and am currently a lawful member of my city council I must always put my Oath of office and the people’s interest first even above my own,” Piccirilli wrote.

Piccirilli had initially refused to resign after Pend Oreille County Auditor Marianne Nichols earlier this month revoked his Ione voter registration when she determined he lives in Metaline Falls, a town 10 miles north.

The auditor’s ruling was specifically limited to his voter registration and not his status as an elected official.

At a council meeting last week, however, Councilman Michael Shipley quoted state law that says if someone is not a resident and a registered voter of the precinct they represent, they are ineligible to hold office. He said that to continue the meeting with Piccirilli still seated would make the meeting invalid.

Shipley was one of the council members Piccirilli filed recall charges against for an alleged open meeting violation. A Pend Oreille Superior Court judge threw out the charges after Piccirilli lost his voter registration. The judge determined there was no evidence of an open meeting violation. Piccirilli said he plans to appeal both decisions.

When Piccirilli said he would not resign, Shipley excused himself, saying he wouldn’t take part in an illegal meeting. The mayor then adjourned, since there was no longer a quorum.

In his resignation letter, Piccirilli said council members have vowed to continue walking out if he stays in office, and the town wouldn’t be able to conduct its business.

“This means our employees may not get paid, our local businesses will not get their permits renewed and the business of the people and their interests will be forsaken,” Piccirilli said. “I cannot allow that to happen.”

Before he resigned, Piccirilli complained that the mayor filled a vacant council seat without a vote. Richard Vogel, who ran against Piccirilli in November as a write-in candidate, was seated and voted at a meeting in early February.

Piccirilli insisted that the only reason Vogel did not continue on the council unlawfully is because he complained about it.

Mayor Eva Marie Warren later said she misunderstood the appointment process. Vogel voluntarily stepped down before last week’s meeting, when a vote on Vogel’s appointment was listed on the agenda before the meeting prematurely adjourned. His appointment is on the agenda for the next meeting, March 6, Clerk John Cannon said.

Piccirilli finished his resignation letter by saying, “It has been an honor to serve and fight for you all and I will continue to do so in another capacity moving forward.”

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.