An effort to recall Pacific Mayor Cy Sun cleared a major hurdle Tuesday in King County Superior Court, but residents of the tiny city can’t start collecting signatures just yet.
Judge Laura Inveen approved two of nine charges filed against Sun, 82 – failing to hire police officers despite an official responsibility to do so, and ordering officers to act as his “personal police force” by conducting an out-of-state investigation into his personal business.
The judge’s decision, which also required a redrafting of the two approved charges, sets a 15-day clock in motion. The clock, and Sun’s related actions, will dictate the timing of a signature-gathering effort.
Before the clock runs out, Sun can appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court. That move likely would prevent the prospect of a December recall election, which backers are hoping for.
If the high court approves the lower court’s ruling, backers could begin gathering signatures. If the high court rejects the ruling, the recall effort would end.
Whether Sun would appeal remained unclear Tuesday. He has said he would appeal. He also has said the opposite. He did not return a call for comment Tuesday.
If Sun chooses not to appeal the lower-court ruling, recall backers could begin gathering signatures when the 15-day clock runs out, but the window to reach the December ballot would be narrow – perhaps four days of signature-gathering, said attorney Jeff Helsdon, who represents recall supporters.
Four days isn’t much, but Pacific is small – recall backers need 405 valid signatures to bring an election to the ballot. By comparison, backers of the unsuccessful 2011 attempt to recall Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam needed more than 65,000 signatures. That effort fell short by 1,108 signatures.
Whether the effort to recall Sun succeeds or fails, Pacific faces other difficulties.
In a few months, it might cease to exist.
The city faces the prospect of losing its liability insurance coverage by Dec. 31. In a letter sent Tuesday to the mayor and City Council, city attorney Ken Luce advised city leaders to develop a contingency plan for disincorporation and a declaration of bankruptcy.
Luce’s letter pointed to the unfilled positions and the inability to respond to emergencies.
“I am concerned the present inability of the city to find a way to solve its current problems is so substantial the city will not be able to address its problems,” Luce wrote. “The primary would be to minimize and possibly avoid personal liability to city employees, especially the police department.”Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486 sean.robinson@ thenewstribune.com