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Withdrawal From Fire District #3 Gets New Hearing

On Friday

Attorneys for the Committee to Withdraw from Klickitat County Fire Protection District No. 3 and Form a New Fire Protection District, and Klickitat County will be back in Klickitat County Superior Court tomorrow to argue over whether the committee should be granted a new election — this time on its original petition to withdraw. The hearing before visiting Judge Blaine Gibson of Yakima County is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Gibson and the county’s attorney, Jennifer A. Forbes of the Tacoma law firm McGavick Graves, P.S., will be appearing telephonically. The committee will be represented by attorney Lance S. Stryker of White Salmon. The committee, which identifies itself as “an association of residents and constituents of the District who are situated within the White Salmon Urban Growth Area,” filed an amended petition for a declaratory judgment on Jan. 9. The petition, which added the County Auditor as a party, asks the court to order the Board of County Commissioners and Auditor to start the process over with a public hearing on a June 17, 2010 resolution by Fire District No. 3 Commissioners, followed by an election to withdraw from Fire Protection District No. 3 that would be based on its original petition and withdrawal area. “Petitioner Committee prays for a declaratory judgment and order of this court declaring that Respondent County, acting by and through its Board of Commissioners and its Auditor, abide by the requirements of [the controlling statutes] and notice a public hearing and either agree or disagree with the findings of the District’s resolution approving the withdrawal of the revised Withdrawal Area from the District, and if the County does not agree with such findings, then to abide by the requirements of [the controlling statutes] and cause a valid election to be held on the original withdrawal petition and the results posted and published.” The committee, according to Stryker, also moved to oppose the county’s motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case and for attorney’s fees and costs, and to enforce its previous judgment against the county and seek an award of attorney’s fees. Klickitat County opposes the committee’s petition for summary judgment on the grounds that the question has already been decided: the committee had its election last August and lost by a 72.6 percent to 27.4 percent margin. “The only issue I can see that’s left is whether the court should be ordering the Auditor to redo the election on the (committee’s original) petition. From the county’s perspective, it complied with the court order and provided the commmittee with an election, and they lost, and lost badly,” Forbes said. “The reality is, this is a lawsuit that’s not founded on facts or the law.” The county argues that the committee had the opportunity under state law to challenge the special election public notice in court, as well as the results prior to official certification. “The committee had the tools to contest the election, but didn’t,” Forbes said. In its briefings, the committee asserts the County Auditor erred last summer when she scheduled the special election based on the June 17, 2010 resolution and modified property description approved by Fire District No. 3 Commissioners. The committee argues the election should have been held on its original petition — which proposed a much larger area for withdrawal — as called for in the County Commissioners’ June 21, 2011 resolution denying “the petition to withdraw the following described territory from the boundaries of Klickitat County Fire Protection District No. 3” and directing the Auditor to schedule a special election on the withdrawal.

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