Fire commissioners recall efforts grow


Irene Torres, KP News

Fire District No. 16 Commissioners James Bosch and Allan Yanity are the subjects of much public scrutiny these days.

At least four KP organizations (KPBA, LIC, KPCCA, and the KP Community Council) and several individuals have formally and publicly invited the two to mutually resign “for the good of the community.” Failing that pressure, a citizen group met at the home of self-described “irate citizen” Mike Salatino in early May to review their options under state law, RCW 29A.56.110.

“A recall is not an easy thing to do,” but he is prepared to lead that action, if necessary, Salatino said. “Conditional letters of resignation” were prepared by the citizen group, offering each commissioner the opportunity to resign — under the condition the other also resigns. The two commissioners have stated at board meetings they did not intend to do so, however.

The law allows the recall and discharge of any elected official deemed to have committed an act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance, or who has violated the oath of office. Ten citizens, interested in the legal conduct of the business of the fire district and in maintaining open records as well as in the safety of the community’s first-responders and the safety of the community in general, will pursue recall efforts. Their interest also includes repairing the community’s reputation, after an arrest following a physical altercation between these two elected public officials.

An online Google search netted 647 “hits” for Yanity and Bosch, according to Ed Taylor, one of the recall organizers who said recent media coverage of the fisticuffs had been published as far away as Pennsylvania and Georgia.

Two letters were entered into the public record at the May 8 meeting of the FD-16 Board of Commissioners, and two more letters, in addition to oral public comments at the May 21 board meeting, continued to press for their resignations. Pending the outcome of felony assault charges filed against Yanity, and if public pressure fails to produce both resignations, a recall petition is being prepared under provisions of the state Constitution, sections 33 and 34 or Article 1.

A subcommittee was formed to prepare a charge, reciting that such officer, naming him or her and giving the title of the office, has committed an act of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, or has violated the oath of office, or has been guilty of any two or more of the acts specified in the Constitution as grounds for recall. The charge shall state the act or acts complained of in concise language, give a detailed description including the approximate date, location, and nature of each act, be signed by the persons making the charge, give their respective post office addresses, and be verified under oath that the persons believe the charges to be true and have knowledge of the alleged facts upon which the stated grounds for recall are based.

“Misfeasance” or “malfeasance” in office means any wrongful conduct that affects, interrupts, or interferes with the performance of official duty, the performance of a duty in an improper manner. “Malfeasance” in office means the commission of an unlawful act. “Violation of the oath of office” means the neglect or knowing failure by an elective public officer to perform faithfully a duty imposed by law.

Retired attorney Mike Abernathy, an attendee at the citizen’s committee meeting, said, “Violation or loss of the public trust is the definition of malfeasance of office of a public official. And these two have lost the public’s trust.”

Short of their voluntary resignations, a charge of misfeasance will be filed with the election officer and passed on to the county’s prosecuting attorney, Salatino said. The charge must be accurate, and supported by specific documentation. The charge can then be filed on a ballot title, and presented to the Superior Court for a decision on its merit. On approval by the Superior Court, signatures can be collected on a recall petition, during a specified timeframe. Those signatures are compared with the voting registration record, and when certified by the county auditor, the petition can be placed on “the ballot” special election set. The subjects of the recall petition have the right to a response, to be printed in the voter’s pamphlet.

A recall petition requires a 51 percent  Yes votes to be approved.

Should that happen, the Pierce County Council will appoint another person to join the single remaining commissioner, Rick Stout, on the FD-16 Board of Commissioners. Those two would pick a third commissioner. Stout’s term of office ends in 2007, and it is unknown if he will seek reelection at this time. Separately, there are plans for a ballot measure to increase the commission from three to five members. Should this measure pass, the existing board members would appoint commissioners to the two new seats.

At the citizens meeting, Taylor read from Washington state law, “The people of this state do not yield our sovereignty to the agencies that serve us. In delegating authority to the government, we did not give our public servants the right to decide what is good for us to know... He encouraged public attendance at all future fire commissioner meetings, to hold the board accountable.

Meanwhile, a second, informal group on the south end of the KP has emerged. Known as TOBAY (Tired of Bosch and Yanity), their goal is to mobilize the citizens  force the two commissioners’ resignations.