Whether a petition to recall the president of the Valley Medical Center Board of Commissioners would move forward was argued Thursday for about an hour, but the judge indicated he wouldn’t issue his ruling until Tuesday (yesterday).
King County Superior Judge Michael Trickey presided over what’s known as a “sufficiency hearing”.
Chris Clifford of Renton filed the petition against board President Don Jabcobson. Clifford stated that Jacobson had violated the Open Public Meetings Act and abused his power as president of the board by circumventing its bylaws.
Jacobson’s attorney, Scott Johnson, argued that the entirety of the recall petition was without merit and not worth wasting the court’s time discussing.
David Berman, an attorney from the firm of Perkins Cooie retained to represent the hospital, was granted a motion to intervene on behalf of Valley but was limited to narrow scope of argument.
Clifford pointed to the discussion of an ethics code at the board’s education retreat in December. He argued that though the meeting was properly noticed, it was held 150 miles outside of the district, and that the meeting agenda that was published never mentioned discussion of a proposed ethics code.
“There is no notice of a business meeting in this notice,” Clifford said. “Even if it was part of the education seminar, it was not part of the minutes, not part of the notice. They didn’t even put it on the agenda that they were going to talk about (the ethics code). This is an absolutely egregious violation of the open meetings act.”
He argued that this was a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act because they had a business discussion and created new policy which was later passed without discussion at the board’s Dec. 17 meeting.
But Valley’s attorney disputed that point.
“It is clear that it was an open public meeting,” Berman said. “There’s no substantive violation much less an intentional violation by Mr. Jacobson.”
Berman, in representing the hospital, said there are concerns this recall petition could discourage other qualified candidates from running for the hospital board.
“It would deter people from serving,” Berman said. “It would cause them to second guess others and it would cause administrative workings to grind to a halt.”
He also asserted that Clifford’s suggestion that the open meetings act be strictly interpreted was not meeting with the spirit and intent of the law.
“There’s nothing in the bylaws or the Open Public Meeting Act that states they should be interpreted strictly,” Berman said.
Clifford also took issue with Jacobson’s alleged unauthorized unilateral creation of a subcommittee as well as statements made regarding a closed-door review of the state Public Disclosure Commission’s investigation into campaign finance violations in 2005 and 2006 for which Valley CEO Rich Roodman later agreed to pay fines.
“Don Jacobson has served on school boards,” Clifford said. “He’s served on this board for many years. He knows the open meetings law. It is a duty of the president to know his powers.”
Berman refuted Clifford’s arguments.
“There is nothing in the facts presented by Mr. Clifford that shows there was (malicious intent),” Berman said.
In order for the recall petition to be considered sufficient, Clifford was required to prove a prima facie case, or establish enough facts to support the petition. Trickey is not supposed to determine the truth of facts provided.
If the recall petition is found sufficient, Clifford will have 180 days to collect more than 14,000 signatures, which would then have the recall go to ballot.
The last successful recall in the county was in 2004.