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Court Decision On Mayoral Recall Gets Pushed Back

Hearing set for May 4

A Superior Court decision on whether to allow the recall of White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen to be put on a special election ballot has been delayed.

The original recall hearing was set for April 21 in Superior Court in Goldendale. However, an additional affidavit with new charges was filed on April 19 by recall proponents Mike Zitur, a White Salmon resident and former owner of the Elkhorn Bar & Grill. The new charges required the court to reschedule its hearing on the case.

The new Superior Court hearing is scheduled for May 4, but it will be heard in Yakima rather than Goldendale.

The original affidavit from a group of citizens seeking to recall the mayor was filed on March 31 with the Klickitat County Auditor's Office, the first legal step in mounting a recall campaign. That filing contended that Holen had violated the law and failed to protect the public interest by removing Chief Cortese from his duties "without any cause."

It further charged that Holen violated the law by "appointing someone who was statutorily disqualified" to serve as police chief.

Robert Landgren, owner of Vanguard Nursery in White Salmon, signed the original affidavit in support of the petition to recall Mayor Holen.

In the new affidavit, Zitur asserted that Mayor Holen had committed acts of malfeasance.

"Despite removing him [Police Chief Rich Cortese] from office and despite the fact that he was no longer authorized to work for the city, Mr. Holen stated he intended to continue to pay Cortese from Jan. 12, 2006, through April 15, 2006," Zitur contended. "Mr. Holen did not ... expect Mr. Cortese to perform any services in return for the pay and benefits from January through April 2006 ... Mr. Holen's act of providing full pay and benefits to Mr. Cortese ... is an unconstitutional gift of public funds in violation of Article 2, Section 25, and Article 8, Section 7, of the Constitution of the state of Washington because the funds were given to Mr. Cortese for work that was not performed and without consideration and with donative intent. These payments are tantamount to severance pay which are illegal under the Constitutions. They essentially constitute a `gift of public funds' and are prohibited. I charge that these facts are sufficient to find that Mayor Holen has committed an act or acts of malfeasance ..."

Holen dismissed the new charges as not credible.

"The new filing is as ridiculous as the first," Holen said. "It contends I violated the state Constitution by `gifting' Rich Cortese, in that he was paid but did no work. That has been construed as a gift."

Holen added that he has hired Teunis Wyers as his attorney.

"He is in the process of preparing a brief that refutes all the allegations," Holen said.

Holen added that he wanted to be at the court's hearing, but has made previous plans and if the date gets delayed again, he might not be able to be there.

"I'm leaving the country on May 9 and going to Italy for two weeks," he said.

Zitur could not be reached for comment by press time on Tuesday.

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