Wednesday, August 10, 2011
A Yakima County Superior Court judge has decided that Klickitat County Auditor Brenda Sorensen complied with his March 22 summary judgment order that a special election to withdraw territory from Fire Protection District No. 3 must be held on the original petition submitted by withdrawal backers.
Visiting Judge Blaine Gibson held a telephonic hearing on Tuesday in Klickitat County Superior Court to hear arguments from attorneys for the Committee to Withdraw from Fire District No. 3 and Klickitat County as to whether the ballot title published by Sorensen complied with his earlier ruling and a June 21 resolution by Klickitat County commissioners calling for a special election on the withdrawal petition.
Afterward, Gibson issued a verbal opinion that found Sorensen’s actions conformed to his earlier ruling and that the Aug. 16 special election could proceed to its conclusion.
“The election is going forward; the votes will count,” said County Prosecuting Attorney Lori Hoctor.
Supporters of withdrawal want to form a new fire district in unincorporated areas to the north and west of the city of White Salmon. As a first step, however, they must successfully opt out of Fire District No. 3. The election on that question culminates next Tuesday.
On July 19, the committee, through its attorney, Lance S. Stryker, filed a motion in Superior Court challenging the ballot language that appeared in legal notice publications and appears on ballots mailed out to voters the last week of July. The ballot title reads, “Shall territory established and defined by the district board of commissioners at its meeting held on the 17th day of June, 2010 be withdrawn from Fire District No. 3?”
The committee contended the election now under way should have been held on its original 2009 petition for withdrawal and legal description of the area to be withdrawn — not the modified area and legal description approved by Fire District No. 3 commissioners.
As a remedy, the committee sought “an order to show cause against the County and its Auditor why they should not be held in contempt of this Court’s summary judgment order and for such further relief as the Court deems appropriate to compel the County and its Auditor to hold the election on the original petition for withdrawal.”
Klickitat County, in its response to the committee’s pleadings, argued that Judge Gibson should deny the committee’s motion on grounds that the county complied with the court’s March 22 summary judgment order, the county “will suffer severe financial harm if compelled to alter the special election” , and the committee to withdraw failed to justify further relief from the court.