A Pasco city councilman penned three of the five charges filed with the state in an attempt to oust Gov. Jay Inslee over his coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Pete Serrano said he saw the effort start brewing on Facebook several months ago and joined in because of his own questions about whether Inslee exceeded statutory authority.
That led to further "questions running around my mind" if it was an opportunity for a recall, he said.
So on Monday, Serrano joined C Davis and other organizers in Olympia to serve the petition for recall.
"The motivation was the bottom line. If he's taking these actions and if they lack a legal basis of justification, he's to be held accountable and to stop doing them," Serrano told the Tri-City Herald. He is a licensed attorney.
"A recall petition will hopefully hold him accountable. I don't know that it will stop him from doing anything, but it's certainly a quicker process than a civil case," he said.
Next, the recall's ballot synopsis must get the court's approval, then would need an estimated 1.5 million valid signatures to get on a ballot.
The citizen group, known as "Washingtonians to Recall Inslee," takes issue with the governor's handling of the pandemic since February 2020.
Inslee announced May 13 that Washington is moving toward a statewide June 30 reopening date.
"The recall effort is focused entirely on issues that were already litigated in court — where the state's pandemic response has repeatedly been upheld — and at the ballot box," said Mike Faulk, Inslee's deputy communications director, "with the governor elected to a third-term in November by more than half a million votes, the largest margin of victory in any governor's race in state history."
The charges in the recall petition claim:
— Inslee's March 23, 2020, "Stay Home — Stay Healthy" proclamation violated religious freedoms by limiting social, spiritual and recreational gatherings of any kind.
— The rights of residential landlords were infringed upon with the state's eviction moratorium March 18, 2020.
— His decision to suspend the Open Public Meetings Act violated Washingtonian's First Amendment rights to petition and to peaceably assemble.
— He exceeded statutory authority when he took away the rights of people to peaceably assemble by limiting how many could attend a single gathering.
— Inslee failed to find "just cause" — such as a finding of a public disorder, disaster, energy emergency or riot — when he issued all COVID-19 pandemic orders.
"The governor's illegal COVID-19 proclamations result in a valid claim for misfeasance, a violation of the governor's oath of office, or both. Either result subjects the governor to recall," wrote Serrano, who authored the last three charges.
The recall group also takes Inslee to task for his leadership since taking office in January 2013.
"Washington state has been ravaged over the past nine years with bad decisions made by our governor," organizers wrote on the recall website. "But over the last two years his actions have crossed the line and become malfeasance, misfeasance and violation of his oath of office."
"The voters of Washington have had enough of his criminal actions and his unprecedented grab of tyrannical power. We the people believe in a constitutional representative form of government," the website continues. "This has been washed away by Jay Inslee who acts more like a foul tempering king sitting behind his wall, than a public servant."
Serrano told the Herald that he saw the energy other people were putting into researching a potential recall of the governor, and he reached out them to see if he could offer his professional and personal assistance.
"I thought this was an opportunity to explore some of these conversations that I've had with friends, and trying to figure out, 'Does it hold merit?'" said Serrano. "... It certainly smells of misfeasance, which is basically acting improperly in his official capacity."
He added: "I am not doing this as Councilman Serrano. I'm not doing it on behalf of my employers. This is just me working late hours in the night and doing something I'm passionate about, and I think it's a just cause."
Serrano was elected to the council in 2017, two years after his family moved to the Tri-Cities from California. He filed Monday for re-election.
He represents District 4, which covers a large swath of west Pasco — from Argent Road on the south side of Interstate 182 to the northern city limits on Burns Road, and between Convention Drive and Broadmoor Boulevard.
In January, Serrano drafted a memo and three-page ordinance proposing that the city defy Inslee's statewide COVID restrictions by declaring an emergency to reopen businesses and the local economy.
At the time, he said the immediate action was necessary "for the preservation of public health and safety, public property, and the public peace."
The owners of several Pasco restaurants and grocery stores pleaded with the city council to allow them to reopen, saying they should be entrusted to keep their customers safe.
Some of Serrano's fellow council members said they appreciated the ongoing dialogue as they work to eventually emerge from the pandemic, but did not give him enough support to move forward with the proposal.