It started as a fight over stormwater rates. Now, it’s an effort to recall 3 on Olympia’s City Council

From left: Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby, council member Jessica Bateman and Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones.
From left: Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby, council member Jessica Bateman and Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones. City of Olympia

A dispute over Olympia’s stormwater rates has led to an effort to recall three members of the City Council.

Jon Pettit argues the city for years has illegally discounted the stormwater rate it charges itself while overcharging other ratepayers. He brought the issue to city staff and the council months ago and argues council members’ inaction is a malfeasance and violation of their oath of office.

Last week he filed paperwork to recall Mayor Cheryl Selby, Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones and council member Jessica Bateman.

“They’ve had (the) knowledge and they’ve chosen not to act,” Pettit told The Olympian. “It’s something that needs major correction and accountability to deal with this.”

To manage stormwater, the city charges businesses and some residents based on the amount of impervious surface on a property. It charges itself 30 percent of that rate, the same discount it gives to the state for state roads within the city.

Pettit said he is a real estate broker and part owner of a property on Morse Road Southeast in Olympia with Terry Ballard, who has accused the city of directing stormwater onto the property without authorization.

City officials rejected Pettit’s allegations and predicted the recall question won’t make it to voters.

“This is Jon’s latest attempt to discredit and embarrass the city,” City Manager Steve Hall told The Olympian. “We expect it will be killed (early in the process) because there’s no basis for it to go forward.”

The other council members voted Tuesday to cover legal costs to defend Selby, Jones and Bateman. Hall said the city will hire an outside lawyer to defend the three and did not have an estimate for how much that will cost.

State law dictates the process for recalling elected officials. In this case, once the paperwork is filed with the county auditor’s office, the county prosecuting attorney prepares language that would appear on a ballot. A superior court judge then determines if the allegations satisfy the criteria for a recall petition.

If the judge rules they do, and if there is no appeal, supporters of the recall effort would then collect signatures to get it on the ballot.

Selby, Jones and Bateman are all up for re-election next year, and Selby planned to launch her re-election campaign at an event Wednesday evening.

Pettit said he picked these three members of the seven-members council because they were among the longest-serving members and, as he sees it, may be more willing to act since they are up for re-election.

Abby Spegman: 360-704-6869