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A Washam recall election could cost $350,000 to $900,000, Pierce County auditor says

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on May 11, 2011 at 9:05 am with 13 Comments »
May 11, 2011 11:03 am

If a recall of Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam occurs, the election could cost Pierce County $350,00 to $950,000, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson told the County Council on Tuesday.

Dale Washam

The cost would be dependent on when such an election might happen and whether it could be combined with other issues on a ballot, Anderson said.

At a minimum, it will cost her office an estimated $40,000 to count and verify signatures on recall petitions when they’re delivered, she added.

Anderson made the comments Tuesday as council members discussed stripping $80,000 from her 2011 budget because that’s how much she previously said going to all-mail elections would save.

“Before you take this action, please know a couple of things that aren’t included in my budget,” she said.

She’s “fully expecting” to receive and need to process recall petitions against Washam, Anderson told council members. That where the $40,000 expenditure would occur.

“If there is a full-on election and I do certify the petitions, the cost of the election, which will fall on Pierce County, depending on which election cycle it falls in…will range anywhere from $350,000 all the way up to $900,000,” Anderson said.

Puyallup resident Robin Farris launched the recall against last Washam last fall, saying he’s guilty of malfeasance, has violated his oath of office and wasted taxpayer dollars.

A series of investigations found that Washam retaliated against employees and created a hostile work environment.

Several claims against the county have been filed by employees or former employees as the result of Washam’s actions since he took office in early 2009. One was settled for $79,000. The others seek damages of more than $4 million.

Farris and the the Committee to Recall Dale Washam say they need 73,055 valid signatures to get a recall election on the ballot. To date, they’ve gotten 17,945 voters to sign on, according to their website.

Anderson was clearly miffed Tuesday when the council deleted the $80,000 from her budget.

“The vote was symbolic,” she said afterward.

Anderson, a passionate advocate of vote-by-mail as a safe and cost-effective way to conduct elections, testified to that effect before the Legislature. The council voted to retain polls in Pierce County and told the Legislature to butt out of local politics.

The council lost. The Legislature passed a bill making Washington an all vote-by-mail state. The governor signed it. With a few exceptions where voters might need help, polling places are history in Pierce County.

Council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham, said it made good fiscal sense to take the money that would be saved and return it to the general fund balance.

Anderson told council members in addition to the recall election on the horizon, her office is preparing to issue ballots in Spanish, and perhaps Korean, and to provide voter assistance in those languages. That will add more costs to future elections, she said.

The U.S. Department of Justice will notify the county later this year of what’s necessary to fulfill requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, she said. But she’s expecting Spanish will be a requirement and it’s very likely Korean will be, too.

Whether a county must offer election services in languages other than English depends on a number of factors, including the population of ethnic or minority groups in an area

Recently released U.S. Census figures show growing Hispanic and Korean populations in the county, Anderson said.

Councilmember Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, asked the auditor why voting services in other languages would be required when a person needs to know English to become a U.S. citizen and therefore eligible to vote.

One of the factors the Justice Department considers in determining whether to order ballot services in other languages is how many residents report via the Census that they are most comfortable speaking and reading a language other than English, Anderson replied.

Ballot issues like wordy state initiatives are often so complex that even native speakers often have a difficult time discerning their meaning, she added.

Leave a comment Comments → 13
  1. I find it funny that after all the running to Olympia that our Exec. and Auditor have done.. screaming how Vote By Mail was such a cost saving.. when it came down to the wire and meant getting the budget cut.. oh my… now its not such a cost saving.

  2. Northend Citizen says:

    He can save money to citizens by resigning his post himself and save a face in the process

  3. wabubba67 says:

    This reminds me of an old joke…..Why does a divorce cost so much? Because it’s worth it.

    Though expensive, how much money will be saved by avoiding future lawsuits against the county.

  4. jiminycricket says:

    ldozy, you continually attack, attack the executive without offering any constructive solutions of your own. In case you didn’t notice, tax revenues are way down in Pierce County and in counties across the country. Like Northend Citizen suggest, Washam could do the “honorable” thing and resign. And, as wabubba67 points out, sometimes divorce is “worth it.”


  5. steilacoomtaxpayer says:

    Gotta love it, more Ranked Choice voting, please!

  6. Has anybody asked the auditor whether she will count the signatures if the petitions do not appear to have enough signatures to force an election? What if the council gives her back the money but there aren’t enough signatures? Does she have to re-giveback?

    Has anybody asked why the county should pay to verify the signatures? The county did not seek this recall (we hope).

    I do not see how recall petitions, which are private property, get a government subsidy to make them into official government documents. The recall sponsors should be paying for this cost.

  7. tacomajoe says:

    The minority of pro-sloth and pro-waste citizens behind this recall will never get it to the ballot, because they are woefully short of the signatures necessary to get it on the ballot. A couple dozen malcontents screaming about Dale’s efforts do not override the electoral process. As Dale continues on, expect the screaming to get louder though with no discernible results.


  8. Hi Jiminy
    I thought we agreed to disagree on our views of the Exec. I’m glad she has a supporter like you.. no fight there.
    My comment was directed to the technique of “end running” on this decision but I also hold the Council accountable for not just putting it on the ballot for the voters to decide. Neither are blameless but I still am offended that our elected leaders had to run to Olympia to get it forced through without lettin gthe PC voters make their own voted upon decision.
    The point was, its been claimed for years it would be a cost saving. that’s why McCarthy closed so many polls, etc………. until it came to recognize the reality of losing the poll money from their budgets.. now its now acknowledged that it really was a cost and adding new things like recalls, etc. always would have incurred cost- recession or not. The price for ballot issues hasn’t changed.. Pierce Transit just spent the same amount for their last Prop. Just some of these measures come from the County coffers instead of agencies like PT.
    As for Washams recall issues.. the costs of that are still on the ropes until the signatures are obtained, verified, etc. .. otherwise next election will decide his future at the standard cost of any election here in Pierce.

  9. Glad to see folks in the AT’s office still have time to respond to these articles!

  10. TheMASO says:

    Just add the recall to the next ‘begging’ special election…no additional cost. Who is standing around the water cooler thinking up this smoke screen???

  11. papasan says:

    I find it hard to believe that this is being discussed. The Assessor has to count the petitions, because it is her job to do so. By Law. If they are submitted in the way as described by law, then they must be counted. Whom do you think would do it, Mrs. Johnson’s 4th Grade Civics class? The petitions are NOT private property, they belong to the public (in spite of what the anti-gay folks think) and must be counted and dealt with as with any public document.

  12. mattersnot1 says:

    What recall election? I haven’t seen one. When did it happen?

  13. Dear_John says:

    I thought that they were boasting they would have all the needed signatures in two weeks?

    wabubba67 says:
    May 11, 2011 at 11:09 am
    Though expensive, how much money will be saved by avoiding future lawsuits against the county?

    The answer:
    First of all, not a single law suit has been filed regarding Washam’s alleged actions. Furthermore, a recall would not bar any future litigation; it would bolster it.

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