King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers ruled Wednesday that the recall petition against Marxist Seattle council member Kshama Sawant can proceed. According to the judge "The petitioner has shown actual knowledge of facts indicating that the Council member intended to commit an unlawful act."
Streaming to Facebook, Sawant said she would fight the recall. The city has authorized use of taxpayer funds to foot the bill for her legal efforts.
The recall against Sawant was filed by a group of Seattle residents, led by Ernie Lou. It alleges violations in six separate instances, including when she used her key to allow activists into City Hall for an after hours occupation of the building in June, endangering employees.
Other alleged violations include encouraging protesters to occupy Seattle Police's East Precinct, that she "helped create the Capitol Hill Occupation Protest (CHOP) Zone," used city resources to promote a ballot initiative, delegated employment and decision making to her political party, The Socialist Alternative, revealed the masked address of Mayor Durkan's home to protesters who later marched on and vandalized her home.
Rogers dismissed the charges related to the East Precinct and the CHOP, but allowed the other four to proceed.
Yesterday, in a 7-1 vote, the Seattle City Council authorized the City Attorney to provide legal support for Marxist Council Member Kshama Sawant to defend herself against a recall petition filed against her. Sawant recused herself from the vote and was excused from attending Tuesday's special City Council meeting.
The Council cited RCW 4.96.041 as their reason for the approval.
The city attorney said that the ordinance would cover the costs of the outside lawyers Sawant has already hired to fight the recall effort, costs that City Council staff estimated at $75,000.
Council member Debora Juarez, the only no vote, said she would have first considered whether Sawant was acting within the scope of her official duties before deciding whether to approve funding for Sawant's legal defense.
The petitioners now need to collect more than 10,000 signatures from residents of Sawant's district to send the recall to voters. This is the second recall effort resulting from the city's response to this summer's mass protests and riots.
The first recall alleged that Mayor Jenny Durkan who called the riots, protests and CHOP the "summer of love" and compared it to a street fair and block party, failed to institute new policies after police used tear gas on protesters. Durkan is appealing the judge's decision to the state supreme court, which is scheduled to consider the case in October. The mayor has not asked the city to help with her legal defense. Council member Sawant has been supportive of the recall effort against the mayor.
This is not the first time Seattle taxpayers have been asked to foot the bill for Sawant's legal bills. In 2019, the city of Seattle paid for Sawant's defense against a defamation suit filed by two Seattle police officers over public statements she made demonizing them in statements regarding a shooting of a suspect that was found to have "posed a threat of death or severe injury."
In 2018, the city paid over $250,000 to defend Sawant in another defamation suit brought by a landlord Carl Haglund who Sawant called a "notorious slumlord" and, according to Haglund's attorney defamed him, subjected him to discriminatory treatment, and violated his privacy, due process, takings, and equal protection rights as Sawant used him and his name to pass legislation.
Sawant's attorney, Dmitri Iglitzin argued that Sawant has been elected three times, most recently less than a year ago, and said the recall petitioners were trying to undo the results because they disagree with her.
"We have elections in this state and in this city, and those elections are where the decision as to who is holding this office is supposed to be determined," he said. "This is on its face, by any fair reading, a political screed against Council member Sawant."
John McKay, representing the recall petitioner said "I hope that we are not living in a time in which our elected officials are not held accountable for violations of the law."
A significant section of the hearing discussed the night of June 9 when Sawant used her key card to unlock City Hall and let hundreds of protesters in to occupy the building, many of whom had come from the CHOP. McCay argued that Sawant had knowingly violated executive orders regarding coronavirus. "It was not an unintentional action, she did not drop her pass key on the sidewalk and someone just picked it up," McKay said. "She brought in hundreds of protesters. It was in the violation of an executive order."
The recall petition against Sawant can be found here