Jay Inslee Visits Lewis County

Governor Jay Inslee talks with attendees Thursday afternoon during a tour of the cold weather shelter inside the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds in Chehalis.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee can't be recalled for multiple trips outside Washington or for failing to declare a statewide emergency over homelessness, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that a petition filed last December for a recall election on Inslee was "factually and legally insufficient" to be circulated for signatures and ultimately sent to voters.

Arthur West, an Olympia resident who frequently challenges the state on the refusal to provide public records, wanted voters to have a chance to boot the two-term governor because Inslee had "abdicated his office" by making some 32 trips outside of Washington, improperly campaigning for a state initiative and "failing to use his executive powers to address homelessness."

Elected leaders can only be recalled for charges that a trial court determines are factually and legally sufficient, Justice Barbara Madsen wrote. The facts must show those acts were intentional and without legal justification.

West claimed the governor's position was sometimes vacant when Inslee left and the lieutenant governor was also out of the state. In those instances, Inslee notified Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who handled the duties. That showed he intended to follow state laws on notification, Madsen wrote, and the law doesn't say a position becomes vacant when an elected official is traveling.

West also claimed Inslee broke campaign laws last year by speaking in favor of Initiative 1631, which called for a fee on carbon emissions. But Madsen wrote that while government officials can't use more than a minimal amount of public resources to promote or oppose a ballot measure, they can comment on it. West didn't present evidence Inslee intentionally used public resources, she said.

"Attending events, shaking voters' hands, and expressing wholehearted support for legislation does not show the governor intended to violate the law," Madsen wrote.

Declaring an emergency is up to the governor, Madsen said, and West didn't show the refusal to do so was unreasonable. Some local governments declared homeless emergencies when Inslee refused, but he can't be recalled for what a separate government does.

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