The Right of Recall In Washington
In Washington, the right of recall is a constitutional right accorded to the people. WASH. CONST. art. I, 33, 34. the state constitution requires a showing of cause before a recall will be allowed. Chandler v. Otto, 103 Wn.2d 268, 270, 693 P.2d 71 (1984).
Charges in a recall petition must state in concise language the act or acts complained of and give a detailed description of each act, including the approximate date, location, and nature of each act complained of. RCW 29.82.010.
The petition must further set forth the name of the officer to be recalled and recite that the officer to be recalled committed an act or acts of misfeasance, malfeasance, or violated the oath of office. RCW 29.82.010.
Misfeasance or malfeasance in office is "any wrongful conduct that affects, interrupts, or interferes with the performance of official duty." RCW 29.82.010(1).
Misfeasance is also the performance of a duty in an inappropriate way, while malfeasance is the commission of an unlawful act. RCW 29.82.010(1)(a)-(b).
"Violation of the oath of office" is the willful neglect or failure by an elected official to faithfully perform a duty imposed by law. RCW 29.82-.010(2).
The Court has recognized the need for public officials to be free from the harassment of recall elections grounded on frivolous charges or mere insinuations. Chandler, 103 Wn.2d at 274.
Charges must therefore be both legally and factually sufficient to justify recall. Id. at 274.
The threshold question is whether the charges of a recall petition are legally sufficient. Greco v. Parsons, 105 Wn.2d 669, 717 P.2d 1368 (1986). to be legally sufficient, the petition must state with specificity substantial conduct clearly amounting to misfeasance, malfeasance, or a violation of the oath of office. Chandler, 103 Wn.2d at 274.
A legally cognizable justification for an official's conduct renders a recall charge insufficient. In re Recall of Wade, 115 Wn.2d 544, 799 P.2d 1179 (1990).
An elected official cannot be recalled for appropriately exercising the discretion granted him or her by law. Chandler, 103 Wn.2d at 274.
Factually sufficient means the petitioner has alleged facts that establish a prima facie case of misfeasance, malfeasance, or violation of the oath of office. Cole, 103 Wn.2d at 288.
The charges as a whole must identify to the electors and to the official being recalled acts or omissions that without justification support recall. Chandler, 103 Wn.2d at 274.
This prima facie showing ensures that both the voters and the officials can make an intelligent decision on the recall charge. Teaford v. Howard, 104 Wn.2d 580, 586-87, 707 P.2d 1327 (1985).
Courts do not have the authority to look at the truthfulness of the charges or question the underlying motivations. Cole, 103 Wn.2d at 287.
Instead, courts must consider whether, accepting the allegations as true, the charge on its face supports the conclusion that the officer in some way abused his position. Teaford, 104 Wn.2d at 586.