Court denies recall of Des Moines council members



An attempt by a citizens’ group to recall four Des Moines City Council members has been blocked by a King County Superior Court judge.

Allegations of misconduct in their official duties by Don Wasson, Maggie Steenrod, Richard Benjamin and Gary Peterson are not sufficient to proceed with a recall effort, Judge Jim Doherty ruled Wednesday after a court hearing in Seattle.

The Des Moines Yes Recall Committee had formally accused the four council members of holding meetings without proper notice under the state's Open Public Meetings Act, introducing and voting on items not on a published council meeting agenda, conducting a “non-public” meeting (separate from other council members) and ordering official city action that would financially benefit themselves.

“The judge got it right,” said Benjamin, who attended the hearing with the other council members. “He said we acted in the capacity we were elected to do.”

The ruling prevents the recall committee from circulating petitions for signatures of registered voters in an attempt to force a recall election. An election would decide whether the council members remained in office or were removed.

Ed Pina, co-president of the committee, said the group will meet this weekend to plot its next move, including a possible second recall effort based on new charges. “As time has gone by, further things have been done” improperly by the council members, he claimed.

He said the committee might also reorganize and recruit candidates to run in next year’s regular election against Wasson, whose current term expires at the end of 2003. Steenrod, Benjamin and Peterson don’t face re-election until 2005.

Benjamin, in comments similar to what the other recall targets made previously, said Thursday that their opponents are misguided and “a very small number of people representing their own special interests.”

He said the recall proponents wasted taxpayers’ money and the time of officials spent reviewing the case, including the judge, a King County deputy prosecutor who by law was required to write a synopsis of the recall charges, and the council members themselves.

Steenrod said she and the other council members “look forward to refocusing our efforts once again on the business of serving the public.”

Pina said the judge handled the court hearing poorly by not allowing the recall committee’s lawyer to respond to “false allegations” by an attorney representing the council members.

“The court’s judgment makes the recall process a farce,” Pina said.

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 925-5565 and

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