Members of the Pierce County Council want to meet with the King County Council so they can jointly decide who to appoint to the vacant 30th District seat in the state House of Representatives.
Pierce County Council members have expressed a strong desire to follow stipulations in the Washington State Constitution and a number of historical precedents in which councils meet jointly to make these important appointments.
At issue is how to fill the empty legislative seat that the late Rep. Roger Freeman won posthumously in November’s election. Since the 30th District is comprised of portions of King and Pierce Counties, council members from both have to vote on Freeman’s replacement.
King County announced plans to take its own vote at its Dec. 8 council meeting. Pierce County leaders question the legality of two counties holding separate votes since the Washington Constitution requires “joint action” to select a replacement. However, King County claims that “joint action” does not translate to a joint meeting despite a 1941 state attorney general opinion to the contrary.
“In cases like this it’s more important to be right than to be fast,” said Pierce County Council Chair Dan Roach. “We’ve done this a number of times in recent years and in all of them, the counties involved convened a joint meeting to weigh the pros and cons of each candidate before agreeing on a final decision.”
In July 2013, the Pierce County Council filled two vacancies in a single day after meeting with Kitsap County and Thurston County Commissioners to select replacements for legislative positions. In 1998, King and Pierce counties held a joint meeting to select a replacement.
“I see no reason to deviate from the established method and hopefully King County will agree, but to be fair to voters in both counties we’re going to request an opinion from the state attorney general to ensure the process is both transparent and accountable,” said Roach, who represents Pierce County’s 1st Council District. “Until we’re certain that we’re following the rules established by the state Constitution, the Pierce County Council will postpone any action on this matter.”
The Council has 60 days from the date the vacancy occurred to appoint someone. If the Council cannot agree on a selection within 60 days, the selection goes to the Governor, who then has 30 days to make the appointment.
Dan Roach, Pierce County Council Chair
Erich R. Ebel, Pierce County Communications