Pacific mayor recall battle costly for all involved

Staff writerJune 20, 2013 

The people seeking to oust Pacific Mayor Cy Sun have spent close to $37,000 on their recall effort, funds raised mostly in dribs and drabs from friends, family, even garage sales.

Much of that money has been spent on legal battles leading up to Tuesday’s special election, which will decide whether the mayor will remain in office. Sun says he also has spent thousands defending his office.

It’s not easy to raise that kind of money when state law limits contributions to $900 per person and the city in question has a population of only 6,800 or so.

“It’s been nickels and dimes here and there,” said Tracey Apata, a Pacific business owner and part of the Committee to Recall Cy Sun.

Supporters of the recall effort also have gone door-to-door to raise money, Apata said.

Sun has said the money he’s used to fight the recall is his own.

The mayor declined comment to The News Tribune on Wednesday, but said in April that he had spent more than $100,000 in legal costs, though court records show the city was ordered to cover about $39,000 of his representation for legal battles not associated with the recall.

The city also will be responsible for the cost of the special election, which still is being calculated, but could run as much as $15,000, according to King County Elections.

CIVIC PRIDE

Recall supporters said the small-town nature of Pacific has helped their effort.

“People have pride in their little small town,” Apata said. “We have a lot of support.”

The Committee to Recall Cy Sun began the process of trying to oust the mayor in July 2012. Its members contend Sun’s behavior since he was elected in November 2011 has been detrimental to the city.

He fired the city clerk and other municipal employees, including the chief of police. A judge later ordered him to replace eight workers he let go or who resigned under his tenure. The clerk has since settled a wrongful-termination claim for $175,000, city attorney Kenyon Luce said.

The city lost insurance under Sun’s leadership after the provider warned it would cease to cover Pacific if the situation there didn’t stabilize, which prompted the City Council to purchase a higher-risk, higher-cost policy.

One of Sun’s supporters, Howard Erickson, served as Pacific’s mayor from 1976 to 1984 and again from 2000 to 2004. Erickson said this week that he also faced a couple recall efforts, which were unsuccessful.

“I’m not going to tell you Cy Sun is the best mayor Pacific has ever had,” he said. “But his heart is in the right place. There’s a hell of a lot more to it than the average citizen thinks.”

Erickson said he thinks Sun made an effort to “clean house” when he was elected, which rubbed some people the wrong way.

Last year, the recall committee formally accused Sun in a recall petition of jeopardizing the city’s insurance by failing to fill vacant positions and of trying to use Pacific police as his own investigative force.

A King County Superior Court judge soon after ruled in the committee’s favor, saying that, if true, those charges would be grounds for recall.

Sun appealed the decision, postponing the recall group’s signature-gathering process until April.

The legal fees for those Superior Court and state Supreme Court proceedings cost the recall committee about $35,000, lawyer Jeff Helsdon said. With other miscellaneous expenses, committee members said they’ve spent roughly $37,000.

They have about $1,800 left to settle the costs, Apata said.

Donations to the recall campaign have ranged from $10 to $900, according to state public disclosure records, which show more than 80 separate contributions.

There’s no state record of the mayor’s finances to fight the recall.

“The mayor himself has not registered a committee with us,” state Public Disclosure Commission spokeswoman Lori Anderson said. “Other than the legal service, we’re not aware of any expenditures that he’s made or contributions that he’s accepted.”

Anderson said which recall-related legal costs need to be reported by Sun is a broader question still being addressed by the courts.

Former Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam doesn’t appear to have been required to report his legal costs to fight the recall effort against him. The only expenses reported under his name appear to be for promotional materials, such as flyers, according to state records.

Should Sun be recalled, the city’s mayor pro tempore, James McMahan, would take over until the City Council appoints a new leader of Pacific for the remainder of the term, which ends in December 2015, Apata said.

She’s hopeful Tuesday’s outcome will be in the recall committee’s favor but, given Pacific’s history, isn’t prepared to make predictions.

“I have learned from the election that put him in there to just wait and see,” she said.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268
alexis.krell@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/crime

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