In the Matter of the Recall of JANELLE RIDDLE, Yakima County Clerk.
hereby ordered that the following change be made to the
unanimous opinion . of Yu, J., in the above entitled case
(page and line references are to the slip opinion filed on
October 26, 2017):
1, at line 10, the following language is deleted: ",
defeating incumbent Kim Eaton".
County Clerk Janelle Riddle appeals the trial court's
ruling that five out of the six recall charges filed against
her are factually and legally sufficient. We granted the
recall petitioners' motion for accelerated review and now
affirm the trial court.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
was elected on November 4, 2014, defeating incumbent Kim
Eaton. Riddle executed her oath of office on December 29 and
began her term on January 1, 2015. Riddle's term in
office has been a challenging one.
attributes many of the challenges she has faced to Yakima
County's early adoption of new case management software
called Odyssey. Yakima County had received approval to be
"an early adopter site" for Odyssey about a year
before Riddle's election. Yakima County Superior Court
Local Administrative Rule (LAR) 2.1. Odyssey was deemed
necessary to replace Yakima's "obsolete"
calendaring software, which posed "a threat to the
[Superior] Court's continuing ability to operate."
Id. Odyssey was implemented in November 2015, nearly
one year after Riddle took office. Although most of the early
adopter sites for Odyssey encountered some difficulties in
its implementation, the Yakima County Clerk's Office had
the most difficulty making the transition.
source of difficulty for Riddle has been her ongoing
disagreement with other Yakima County officials, particularly
the superior court judges, about the scope of Riddle's
powers and duties as clerk. This disagreement prompted the
Yakima County Superior Court to pass five new local
administrative rules regarding the powers and duties of the
clerk on an emergency basis pursuant to GR 7(e). LAR 3, 7, 8,
9, 10. Riddle contends that those rules are void because they
conflict with state law and violate separation-of-powers
2017, about two and a half years into Riddle's four-year
term, the recall petitioners (attorneys Rickey Kimbrough,
Robert Young, Bruce Smith, and Richard Johnson) filed a
statement of charges against Riddle. Briefly, the charges
allege that Riddle failed to transmit court orders as
required by statute, refused to perform in-court duties and
threatened to shut down the Yakima County Superior Court, and
failed to properly collect and account for clerk's office
revenue. The facts underlying each charge are discussed as
relevant to the analysis below.
required by RCW 29A.56.130, the Yakima County Prosecuting
Attorney's Office drafted a ballot synopsis based on the
charges and petitioned for a ruling on the sufficiency of the
charges and the ballot synopsis in Yakima County Superior
Court. The court ruled that five of the six charges were
factually and legally sufficient and approved an amended
ballot synopsis that states, in full, as follows:
The charges that Yakima County Clerk, Janelle Riddle,
committed misfeasance, malfeasance and/or violated her oath
of office allege she:
1.Failed, between October 2015 and November 2016, to properly
and timely transmit to [the Department of Social and Health
Services], Division of Child Support, orders of child support
entered in Yakima County Superior Court, resulting in
substantial loss of revenue to the County and harm to
2.Failed, between February 2016 and October 2016 to properly
discharge her duty to timely transmit to law enforcement
agencies restraining orders entered in Yakima County Superior
3.Refused and/or failed in July 2016 to perform in-court
duties required by law, and threatened to shut down or close
the Yakima County Superior Court and Yakima County
4.Failed, between January 2015 and December 2016 to properly
maintain account of the monies received by the Yakima County
Clerk's Office; and
5. Failed, between May 2016 and October 2016 to enact
procedures to collect for jury services rendered to other
courts resulting in a delay of revenue.
Should Janelle Riddle be recalled from office based on these
Papers (CP) at 2442.
appealed the sufficiency of those five charges to this court
pursuant to RCW 29A.56.270. The insufficient charge is not at
issue. We affirm the trial court and hold that all five of
the remaining charges in the amended ballot synopsis are
factually and legally sufficient and the recall proceeding
may move forward.
the five remaining charges factually and legally sufficient
to move forward in accordance with RCW 29A.56.140?
the amended ballot synopsis adequate?
LAW AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
voters have a constitutional right to recall any nonjudicial
elected official who "has committed some act or acts of
malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, or who has
violated his[ or her] oath of office." CONST, art. I,
§ 33. The statutes governing recall proceedings are RCW
29A.56.110-.270. See CONST, art. I, § 34.
courts act solely as gatekeepers in the recall process. Our
role is "to ensure that the recall process is not used
to harass public officials by subjecting them to frivolous or
unsubstantiated charges." In re Recall of West,
155 Wn.2d 659, 662, 121 P.3d 1190 (2005). It is up to the
voters to determine whether the charges are true and, if so,
whether they actually justify recalling the official. Courts
therefore take all factual allegations as true. In re
Recall of Boldt, 187 Wn.2d 542, 549, 386 P.3d 1104
(2017). '"The sufficiency of a recall petition is
reviewed de novo.'" Id. (quoting In re
Recall of Wasson, 149 Wn.2d 787, 791, 72 P.3d 170
charge is factually sufficient where the alleged facts, taken
as a whole, '"identify to the electors and to the
official being recalled acts or failure to act which without
justification would constitute a prima facie showing of
misfeasance, malfeasance, or a violation of the oath of
office.'" Id. at 548 (quoting Chandler
v. Otto, 103 Wn.2d 268, 274, 693 P.2d 71 (1984)). A
charge "is legally sufficient if it' state[s] with
specificity substantial conduct clearly amounting to
misfeasance, malfeasance or violation of the oath of
office.'" Id. at 549 (alteration in
original) (quoting Chandler, 103 Wn.2d at 274).
"Misfeasance, " "malfeasance" and
"violation of the oath of office" are statutorily
(1) "Misfeasance" or "malfeasance" in
office means any wrongful conduct that affects, interrupts,
or interferes with the performance of official duty;
(a) Additionally, "misfeasance" in office means the
performance of a duty in an improper manner; and
(b) Additionally, "malfeasance" in office means the
commission of an unlawful act;
(2) "Violation of the oath of office" means the
neglect or knowing failure by an elective public officer to
perform faithfully a duty imposed by law.
RCW 29A.56.110. When applying these statutory definitions, we
have held that "[a]n appropriate exercise of discretion
does not constitute grounds for recall." Boldt,
187 Wn.2d at 549. Moreover, where the charge alleges the
commission of an unlawful act, "the petitioner must show
facts indicating the official had knowledge of and intent to
commit an unlawful act." Id.
contentions reflect a misunderstanding of the respective
roles of the courts and the voters in the recall process. We
affirm the trial court's ruling that each charge is
factually and legally sufficient to move on to the
signature-gathering phase of the recall ...