Judge sets aside decision to remove Thurston Conservation District leaders

Richard Mankamyer, left, and Eric Johnson.
Richard Mankamyer, left, and Eric Johnson. Thurston Conservation District

A Thurston County judge has set aside a decision to remove two officials at the Thurston Conservation District from office earlier this year.

Eric Johnson and Richard Mankamyer were removed from the district’s board of supervisors in February following a day-long hearing before the Washington State Conservation Commission.

Johnson and Mankamyer went to court, challenging the process the commission used to remove them and arguing Mankamyer, who was elected to the board, could only be removed via a recall, according to court documents. (Johnson was appointed to his seat by the state commission.)

On Friday, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon set aside the decision to remove them and remanded the matter back to the state commission, which could take up the matter at its next scheduled meeting in mid-September.

It was unclear if the two would be reinstated. Their lawyer, Shawn Newman, said in an email to The Olympian they would like to be.

Johnson’s term expired in May and both seats have been filled.

“I think everybody is digesting what is going to take place,” said Kirk Robinson, special projects coordinator at the state commission who investigated Johnson and Mankamyer.

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This was the first time in the commission’s history it removed local conservation district supervisors following such a hearing. The commission says it has statutory authority to do so.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Mankamyer are being sued for allegedly violating the Open Public Meetings Act in holding an illegal executive session back in June 2018 while on the board. Two current supervisors, Paul Pickett and Doug Rushton, are being sued for allegedly violating the same law by revealing what happened at that meeting.

Pickett and Rushton were also investigated by staff at the Washington State Conservation Commission at the request of Mankamyer. In that case, staff did not find conduct that would qualify for removal, according to a June report.

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