Pierce County Council to vote next week on House appointee – with or without King County

The Pierce County Council decided Tuesday to request a joint meeting with the King County Council to choose a replacement for a state lawmaker who died.

Council members want to arrange the meeting for Monday or Tuesday next week in their council chambers in Tacoma.

Pierce County and King County are jointly tasked with filling the seat formerly held by state Rep. Roger Freeman, a Democrat from Federal Way who won re-election Nov. 4 despite dying six days earlier.

But King County officials met Dec. 8 and voted 8-0 to replace Freeman with Federal Way School Board President Carol Gregory — a move that has irked members of the Pierce County Council.

Pierce County Council Chairman Dan Roach said Tuesday that a joint meeting would meet the legal requirements for appointing Freeman’s replacement in the 30th Legislative District, which straddles the Pierce-King county line. A 1941 opinion of the state attorney general appears to support his position.

“This is our attempt — one last chance to do it legally,” said Roach, R-Bonney Lake.

Roach said he believes some King County Council members might take part in the joint vote, which would then become the official decision.

“If nobody comes down and it’s just the (Pierce) council, we’ll still have our meeting,” Roach said. “We’ll make our vote.”

The councils have through Dec. 28 to agree to one of the three Democratic nominees for Freeman’s seat, according to the governor’s office. The decision goes to Gov. Jay Inslee if the councils don’t act or can’t agree.

The council has through Friday to give legal notice of the joint meeting. Council attorney Susan Long said she would contact the King County Council on Tuesday or Wednesday to set up the meeting.

Al Sanders, King County Council spokesman, said Tuesday afternoon that council members are on winter recess and don’t plan to meet again until Dec. 29. He said the council had yet to receive an invitation from the Pierce council to meet next week.

If King officials don’t take part, Roach said he believes and hopes someone will file a lawsuit over the process. He’s concerned about setting a precedent that allows counties to decide joint legislative appointments separately, prompting more stalemates and more appointments decided by the governor rather than local leaders.