Snohomish County Sheriff has to pay for legal defense of recall petition, county prosecutor says

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney, who made the news last month when he said he wouldn’t enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the COVID-19 outbreak, will have to pay for his own legal defense against a recall petition filed against him.

In an April 28 letter to Fortney, Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell denied the Fortney’s request to have the county pay for his legal defense related to the recall petition, filed shortly after Fortney posted an open letter to “Snohomish County Residents and Business Owners” that criticized the governor’s efforts that reiterated his position “to not carry out any enforcement for the current a stay-at-home order.”

Under the Washington state law governing recall elections, before the recall process can go forward, there must be a show of cause in superior court that the recall effort is not based on “false and frivolous charges.” Fortney requested that the county cover his legal expenses, pointing to a law that indemnifies public officials if they are acting in their official capacity.

However, Cornell told Fortney that the April 21 “public statements made by you on a personal Facebook page, which serve as the basis of the charge, do not warrant a defense at public expense.”

In fact, Cornell said, Fortney’s Facebook post encouraged people “to disobey data-driven, science-based lawful orders handed down expressly to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect our health and well-being during this pandemic emergency.

“Put simply, your words were akin to yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Cornell said.

Our online news partner The Seattle Times reported that Monroe resident Lori Shavlik filed the petition with the city auditor seeking to recall Fortney, a 23-year veteran sheriff’s patrol sergeant who took office in January after defeating incumbent Ty Trenary. The petition alleged that Fortney’s refusal to enforce the governor’s emergency orders and his decision to label the orders unconstitutional constituted malfeasance and are grounds for his recall.

If a judicial review of the charge determines that the petition is false and frivolous, Cornell said that “upon request, I will revisit my determination that any costs associated with defending the petition should be covered at taxpayer expense.” The matter would also require independent review and approval by the Snohomish County Council.



10 Replies to “Snohomish County Sheriff has to pay for legal defense of recall petition, county prosecutor says”

  1. Which ever side you fall on with this sheriff it does feel like the prosecutor is making a statement himself to punish the guy.

    “In fact, Cornell said, Fortney’s Facebook post encouraged people “to disobey data-driven, science-based lawful orders handed down expressly to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect our health and well-being during this pandemic emergency.”

    Inslee’s decision on construction plainly failed this statement.

    I saw the parks commissioner on “The Divide” and when asked she admitted the decision on parks was not based on science or the advise of an expert, it was based on her own presumption that the parks would get crowded. And there is no official study being used on the order of re-opening the parks.

    The state never put out a clear directive on which businesses were non-essential. Flower World stayed open the whole time with virtually no restrictions self labeling themselves essential while Sky’s all but shut down.

    Video Only has radio adds self labeling themselves with few restrictions while Best Buy eventually went to curb side pickup only. And frankly buying a tv at Video Only is not essential when people could simply go to a number of multipurpose stores to do the same.

    No two grocery stores have the same policy for customers.

    Costco has changed its policy at least three times in the last month, and only after the state bent the curve requiring masks to be worn, and that decision people were given a weeks noticed before it started.

    Going to Home Depot and Lowes is a completely different experience.

    Heck for that matter there was not even a set plan for hospitals in the area as each was left unto itself to set policy. Evergreen for example is another that didn’t require masks be worn by everyone until AFTER we bent the curve.

    1. I dont understand why the Sheriff is the one that is being punished.. Its funny how everyone is so worried about this virus and so adamant about protecting themselves but only doing everything half ass come on wake up.. when they 1st closed the school kids couldnt go to school to learn but they were able to go to school to eat free lunch until they finally got smart.. All fast food place take ur money with gloves using a container and give your food on a tray now tell me how it protects me when they touch my money with those gloves grabs my food with them gloves but NEVER change those gloves b4 they grab the next persons money and food the same gloves used for the person in front of me and behind me.. Hello people why if this virus is so serious then why is it that only something r being enforced and i didnt even graduate to figure that out

  2. This is a reasonable measure for a law enforcement official refusing to implement state directives.

    He didn’t go to the court or seek county council before posting his message, and to have an elected sheriff do it…

    I think the recall is valid and the county’s position is correct: no taxpayer money for dereliction of duty. I will vote against this guy a second time.

    1. Rick, no other county sheriff has enforced the states order either, this one just went public with it. Similar to the ones that won’t enforce the orders they say infringe on the 2nd ammendment and the ones that won’t honor ICE retainers. Unless people want ALL of them recalled then none of them should be recalled for “not following the law.”

      Plus, someone please correct me if I am wrong here, but I believe that a county sheriff legally is a more fluid position than say a cities chief of police or a state trooper. Where those are bound more tightly to policy makers above them I believe the top sheriff in each county has much more ability to set policy themselves.

  3. Everyone listen. Read US Supreme Court majority opinion in the 1803 case Marbury v. Madison. It says ” the US citizen has no duty or obligation to obey unconstitutional laws or edicts “. What Inslee is doing is unconstitutional!

  4. Fortney’s a despicable, totally hypocritical but all-too-typical Republican, and he must be held to full account for his wanton and dangerous lawlessness. He’s a disgrace to Snohomish County and our region.

    1. Hmmm. I always appreciate the irony in the defense of an illogical petty-Tyrant and a Dictator. America’s a Constitutional Republic, the constitution being the brilliant rule and guide to our amazing republic, and the final arbiter about what’s lawful. In this light, Sheriff Fortney, along with dozens of other constitutionally minded sheriffs across the US, look like the very definition of what’s UPRIGHT & LAWFUL. A disgrace? Just because he’s come to the fairly common conclusion that behavior of people like Gov. Insley, have dangerously overstepped constitutional bounds, and has the fortitude to stand up against the bully mob? And just because many like you would rather cancel him, doesn’t make him wrong in any substantive way, or subject him to any “full accounting”. I personally find it incredibly refreshing in this land of Politically Correct, Echo Chamber Sycophants. And perhaps you can attempt to show me his hypocrisy, but if so, please keep any wide ranging ad-homonym slurs to a minimum(if you can).

      1. I am shutting this comment thread down as I believe that many opinions have been represented and the level of dialogue is deteriorating. Not to mention we are getting more comments from folks outside of Edmonds than inside the city.

  5. Why does he need a legal defense? The people elected him. If they’re happy with him, he won’t be recalled, as easy as that.

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