White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen has decided he will not appeal the recent Superior Court ruling that cleared the way for a recall campaign against him to proceed.
On May 12, Superior Court Judge James P. Hutton determined there was "sufficient factual and legal basis" for the recall process to go forward on five separate counts. Proponents of recalling Mayor Holen had presented five claims of malfeasance or misfeasance against Holen to the judge, who ruled that "the [recall] petitioners have met their burden of proof for all five stated reasons in their petition."
The charges stemmed from Holen's removal of Bingen-White Salmon Police Chief Rich Cortese in January.
Holen had until May 30 to file an appeal of the judge's ruling with the Washington Supreme Court.
In a May 26 interview with The Enterprise, Holen said he reached his decision not to pursue the appeal after considering several factors.
"The costs are substantial to appeal, and it's not clear there would be a benefit," Holen explained. "The Supreme Court has overturned several recall rulings and said there was not sufficient cause, but it's difficult to justify spending thousands of dollars for a $300-a-month job. I just can't see expending that much money."
Holen noted that the group pursuing his recall represents a significant political force in White Salmon.
"Fourteen signed on to support the recall, but I have not heard of a group of 14 forming to support me, financially or otherwise," he said. "Hey, if they can get 205 signatures, maybe I ought to go."
According to Holen, filing an appeal could have delayed any recall vote by many months.
"If I appealed, in all likelihood they couldn't have a recall election until next spring or summer," Holen said. "But to play that kind of game -- I'm not willing to do that. It doesn't accomplish anything, and I'd become a huge distraction to the city getting any business done."
Holen said the city has been going through a turbulent period in recent years.
"The city is dysfunctional right now," Holen said. "White Salmon has lost three clerk-treasurers in the last two years. What's the prospect of hiring a new one? Looking forward to the 2007 budget process, I have a problem putting the staff through that ordeal. Some members of the City Council's budget committee have just savaged these people."
Holen added that he believed the recall campaign was not solely about his actions as mayor.
"This is principally not about Rich Cortese," Holen said. "It's about the water system. It's about getting Wil (Keyser, director of the city's Public Works Department). It's a sad chapter for White Salmon."
Now that Holen has decided not to file an appeal, recall proponents will be allowed 180 days to obtain a minimum of 205 valid signatures from voters living within the city limits of White Salmon.
If enough citizens sign the petition, a special election will then be scheduled, with only one measure on the ballot: A "Yes" or "No" vote on whether to recall Mayor Holen.