Making it easier to recall elected leaders in Washington

May 14, 2013, 5:50 PM | Updated: May 15, 2013, 7:23 am
Don Thomson, Chair of the Committee to Recall Cy Sun, signed the paperwork initiating a recall in August of 2012. The State Supreme Court recently decided voters may vote on a recall of the Pacific mayor in June. (File photo)
(File photo)

How difficult or easy should it be to recall public officials?

State Senator Pam Roach says you don’t need to look beyond the town of Pacific, which straddles the King and Pierce County line, to know something’s not right.

“The city is, I believe, suffering immensely under the great pressure that has been created,” Roach says. “Nobody should have to wait so long to try to change their government if it’s necessary.”

Cy Sun was elected as Pacific’s mayor in November of 2011 on a write-in campaign. He vowed to clean up what he called “corruption” in the small city of about 6,000 residents, but he was immediately at odds with the city council.

Some residents have been trying to recall him since the fall of 2012. They accused him of using the police department as his own personal force, firing people unfairly, and risking the town’s liability insurance by having so many vacant department positions.

Though Sun has denied all allegations, the State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the recall vote may go forward.

The recall election is set for June 25, nearly a year after residents first wanted to remove him from office.

Senator Roach says part of the reason it takes a long time to toss someone out is that our state’s recall law is “very vague.”

She’s behind an effort to change Washington’s code for recalling public officials.

Many people who want to recall an individual find themselves going before the State Supreme Court to get an interpretation of existing statute.

“Malfeasance, misfeasance – what exactly does that mean?” Roach asks, noting that it’s up to justices to decide.

It’s by design that the high court is called on to determine whether citizen recall attempts are justified.

Zack Jarvis, an attorney for Mayor Sun, says that’s the way it should be.

“We don’t want false, frivolous information to be put before the voters,” he says. “In this state it is the court’s role to act as a gatekeeper.”

Roach disagrees. She says citizens should not have to finance a trip to the Supreme Court to remove an ineffective, incompetent leader.

The law regarding recalling an elected leader should be more specific and easily understood, she says.

Roach also wants to add DUI convictions as ground for demanding a recall.

“When people break the law, such as with drunk driving, especially with elected officials, there should be some repercussion for that,” says Roach.

“If you’re found guilty of drunk driving that should make you subject to a recall election. Legislators and other elected leaders need to be held accountable.”

Sometimes she says, waiting for the next election is not soon enough to hold leaders accountable.

“We want elected officials to whom our children and ourselves can be looked up to,” she says. “We want them to be good examples for the rest of us.”

The state senator hasn’t always had the most pristine image.

Over the years, Roach has been investigated by the Legislative Ethics Board and has been sanctioned by the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee. Most of the complaints stem from her alleged mistreatment of staff.

Earlier this year Roach responded to her critics in a news conference saying she has been the victim of the “largest, most concentrated effort to ruin somebody’s name in the legislature that has ever happened in state history.”

As for changes with the state’s recall law, she says politicians who are doing their jobs have nothing to worry about.


Exterior photo courtesy the Committee To Recall Cy Sun Facebook page


Lights on a downtown Seattle building form a giant figure "12" in honor of Seattle Seahawks fans an...
MyNorthwest Staff

Seattle skyline to display No. 14 in celebration of Mariners winning streak

Russell Investments Center in Downtown Seattle will display No. 14 on Thursday night.
20 days ago
A Washington State Department of Agriculture worker displays an Asian giant hornet taken from a nes...
Nicole Jennings

Asian giant hornet trapping season kicks off in Washington

Now that July is here, the state is officially in Asian giant hornet trapping season. Scientists will be looking for the hornets in Whatcom County.
1 month ago
(KIRO 7)...
Annette Cary

Avian flu kills baby raccoons in Washington state park, a first in North America

The first confirmed case of avian flu in a mammal in Washington state was detected in a baby raccoon at Sacajawea Historical State Park in Pasco, WA.
2 months ago
Follow @
Darren Dedo

Murder Charge In Deadly Shooting of Innocent Bystander

A Marysville man is charged with murder in connection to the death of a Lynnwood retiree.
2 months ago
Photo by John Moore...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Seattle Fire Department rescues man after scaffold collapse

A man was rescued after a scaffold collapsed in Seattle on Thursday, according to the Seattle Fire Department.
2 months ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Tacoma 14-year-old arrested for threatening to shoot staff and students

Tacoma police arrested a 14-year-old for threatening to shoot fellow students as well as staff members at Northwest School of Innovative Learning.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
Making it easier to recall elected leaders in Washington