Man wrote to Hyer before recall request

'Set-Up': Letter alleges scheme by 'powers that be'

March 27, 2010 

OLYMPIA - Two weeks before Olympia resident Steven McKnight filed a recall request against City Councilman Joe Hyer, McKnight sent Hyer a letter asking him to help bring down public officials, Hyer said.

In the two-page, handwritten letter obtained by The Olympian, McKnight never suggests that he had plans to file a recall against Hyer. He asks whether the councilman would “like more dirt on the a--holes who have such a lock on this little hillbilly hell hole.”

Hyer turned the letter over to the Thurston County Auditor’s Office Thursday, and that office turned it over to the county Prosecutor’s Office, said Ken Raske, chief deputy auditor.

“We turned it over as just additional information,” he said. “There was nothing for us to do with it. … It was just kind of an odd letter.”

McKnight filed a request to the auditor Tuesday to recall Hyer, who has pleaded not guilty to three felony charges for allegedly dealing marijuana. He declined to discuss the letter in a brief interview.

In McKnight’s letter, which is undated, McKnight wrote that Hyer’s “present adversity” is a “set-up.”

“Again, be that as it may, I have also come up against similar adversities though I’ve done nothing to be arrested for,” he wrote. “I live a clean life. However, I am quite sore that your years of service has givin you a first hand look at the lever of graft and corruption that goes on right here in Rivercity. The powers that be have shown they will stop at nothing to ruin people like you and me.”

Later in the letter, he gauges Hyer’s interest in seeing some unnamed people “go down.”

“If this sort of attack interests you, feel free to contact me,” he wrote.

In an interview, Hyer said the letter arrived two to three weeks ago.

“I actually thought the letter was strange but harmless and set it aside,” he said. He came to realize, though, “that the letter seemed to be offering me information, blackmail,” and “I don’t ever want to get involved with anything like that. I don’t play that game.”

Hyer said he has never met McKnight and learned Tuesday that McKnight had sued the city in 2006.

In the lawsuit, McKnight sought damages over a 2003 incident in which a police officer fired a Taser at him. A charge of disorderly conduct against McKnight was dismissed, according to Olympia Municipal Court, but there no longer is a printed record of the incident. The municipal court purges such records after a certain number of years.

According to McKnight’s lawsuit, police arrived at his home on Bigelow Avenue Northeast in Olympia at 8:11 p.m. Dec. 6, 2003. McKnight had “slammed his screen door in anger perhaps as many as 50 times” after he noticed someone had “jimmied” his front door, “as if someone had tried to break in,” McKnight stated, according to a statement from his psychologist, Ellie Sternquist.

Sternquist was writing in favor of McKnight receiving compensation, saying there was cause to think he suffered “acute traumatic stress.”

According to the lawsuit, police requested that McKnight step outside, which he did, and “approached the officers at their request,” according to McKnight. An Olympia police officer then fired his Taser twice at McKnight.

During a brief interview Friday, McKnight declined to talk about the lawsuit, other than to say it was settled. He said he would talk only about the recall, and that he plans to canvass the community to gather signatures.

Once a recall statement is given to the Auditor’s Office, the elections officer must notify the accused, and certify and transmit the charge. The case then goes to Thurston County Superior Court, which is responsible for conducting a hearing, in part, to determine whether the acts in the recall request satisfy criteria for recall petitions.

The petitioner then has 180 days to come up with enough signatures to put a recall on the ballot – and the clock begins ticking 16 days after the Superior Court determines that the criteria for a recall are met.

The petitioner must gather enough signatures of legal voters to equal 25 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for the office “to which the officer whose recall is demanded was elected at the preceding election.”

Hyer pleaded not guilty two weeks ago to two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, each a class C felony.

Hyer was arrested at home on Legion Way last month by detectives with the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force. A confidential informant wearing a wire bought marijuana from Hyer twice during controlled buys at Hyer’s home in February, court papers state.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869

mbatcheldor@theolympian.com

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