The effort to recall Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney got another green light. On Friday, San Juan County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Loring rejected Fortney’s motion that she reconsider her original decision allowing the recall to continue.
Loring is handling the case to avoid any conflict of interest issues with Snohomish County judges.
Two groups have filed recall petitions asking that voters be allowed to decide whether Fortney should lose his job for violating his oath of office. Separate judges have ruled that both efforts may proceed.
In both recall petitions, the argument is that Fortney, in an April post on his Facebook page, said he was refusing to enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. The petitions charge that his refusal violates his oath of office and that his statements incited the public not to follow the order.
At the time, Fortney said his officers would not enforce the governor’s order because he felt it was unconstitutional, including that it deprived citizens of their rights to gather in church or in other public places.
Additional recall charges accuse Fortney of improperly rehiring deputies who had been fired by previous sheriffs for misconduct. He has called his rehire decisions legal and “a matter of the sheriff’s discretion” to bring those officers back to work.
Judge Loring has ruled that these four charges have sufficient merit to allow voters to decide on the sheriff’s fate.
We have reached out to Fortney and to his attorney, Mark Lamb, for comments on the written ruling handed down Friday. Neither has responded yet.
The chairman of the second recall committee, Colin McMahon, says: “Fortney is supposed to be our county’s top law enforcement officer and, yet, he acts as though he is above the law. An outlaw sheriff does not belong in Snohomish County.”
From the time Loring entered her ruling, the sheriff has 15 days to appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court. A person close to his defense who requested anonymity says it is very likely that Fortney will appeal.
If the State Supreme Court takes the case, it would have to rule within 30 days. If the court rejects the appeal, both recall campaigns will have 180 days to gather nearly 45,000 signatures to bring the recall to a vote. It is legally possible that both campaigns could combine their efforts, but no announcement on that has been made.
— By Bob Throndsen