Seattle will cover Mayor Durkan’s legal costs from fighting recall

Dec 15, 2020, 7:26 AM

Seattle will cover the legal costs incurred by Mayor Jenny Durkan while fighting a recall petition that was previously rejected by the state Supreme Court.

The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle City Council voted 9-0 Monday to pay Durkan’s expenses, estimated to be $240,000.

In October, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled to throw out a petition to recall Mayor Durkan, effectively ending a months-long battle over attempts to move into the signature-gathering phase.

The recall saga began in mid-July, when King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts initially allowed the petition to move into the signature-gathering phase, upholding an allegation that claimed the mayor had failed to take action regarding extreme crowd control measures used by Seattle police in early-June.

Mayor Durkan then filed a motion asking Judge Roberts to reconsider, claiming her office had no legal duty to prescribe Seattle Police Department policies. Roberts denied that motion in July, before Durkan filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court.

The court reviewed written arguments in September from both Durkan’s attorneys and the group filing the petition. It eschewed oral arguments, after it opted to rule solely off written briefs.

The state Supreme Court did not expand on its reasoning for throwing out the recall petition, but plans to file a longer opinion on its decision “in due course.”

Had the petition been approved and more than 50,000 signatures collected, a special election would have been held to allow voters to retain or remove Durkan from office.

On Dec. 7, however, Durkan announced she would not be running for reelection in 2021, instead focusing on the work of mayor for her remaining days in office rather than a campaign.

Jenny Durkan announces she won’t seek a second term as Seattle mayor

State law directs cities to cover legal expenses for elected officials who face recall petitions for actions taken while performing “or in good faith purporting to perform” their official duties.

In September, the council voted 7-1 to fund Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s legal expenses in her recall case, which is still active.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Seattle will cover Mayor Durkan’s legal costs from fighting recall