Pool recall leaders throw in the towel

After two court hearings and a premature signature-gathering campaign, Friends of the Pool leader Tom Johnson announced the group will no longer continue the efforts to recall two North Whidbey Park and Recreation commissioners.

Speaking in the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s Park board meeting, Johnson voiced the group’s reasons for terminating the recall effort, despite Commissioner Janet Sabalausky interrupting him. She said he was not allowed to speak on the issue because of pending litigation.

Johnson stated that the group’s originally intention was to have the recall on the Nov. 4 ballot “to preclude the additional expense of a future special election.”

In order to get the recall on the Nov. 4 ballot, the 1,400 signatures would have been necessary by that night, Sept. 16, according to Johnson.

As Sabalausky began to pound the gavel, attempting to stop Johnson from going any further, he went on with his statement saying that the option of gaining enough signatures for Nov. 4 “was negated by the negative and indirect information published in the Sept. 6 edition of the Whidbey News-Times.” That article referred to Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill taking issue with how Johnson dealt with the court.

With Sabalausky calling for an immediate recess and temporarily leaving the room, Johnson finished his statement saying, “Due to our inability to obtain the required number of signatures to proceed with the recall, I hereby terminate the Friends of the Pool recall process.”

According to Johnson, the group didn’t want to incur additional costs to the public from pursuing a special election — something that Johnson said could have cost approximately $25,000.

“We didn’t want to expend anymore money from the taxpayers,” he said. The district board has been spending public money to defend the two targeted commissioners.

As of Wednesday, Friends of the Pool lawyers were moving toward stopping all future court proceedings.

But there may be a complication in getting the recall ball stopped now that it’s rolling. Mark Theune, the attorney for the district, said he received a letter from the Friends of the Pool’s lawyer stating they want to put an end to the recall. The problem, however, is that Theune already sent in the appeal to the state Supreme Court.

So at this point, Theune said he’s not sure which court has jurisdiction over the case. “It looks like everyone is on the same wavelength,” he said. “There’s a question as to who is going to sign the orders.”

The group was was trying to recall Sabalausky and Lillquist for voting to allocate $20,000 in Park District funds to the Boys and Girls Club for summer programs. That move was later rescinded.

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