By BRIAN WALKER
ATHOL — Timberlake Fire Protection District Commissioners Rudy Rudebaugh and Marty Fish will retain their seats after a recall vote on Tuesday.
Votes for recalling Rudebaugh were 645 for and 874 against. Votes for recalling Fish were 642 for and 870 against.
Charlotte Hooper, who oversaw the election, said there's more than 1,100 voters in Athol and more than half of them voted. Hooper said Athol's Precinct 3 made the biggest difference in retaining the commissioners as about 250 more voted in favor of keeping them than recalling them.
"There were no lull times in any of the precincts," Hooper said. "People really came out to vote."
A simple majority — 50 percent plus one — and one more vote than each commissioner received in last November's election was needed for the proposals to pass.
Fish and Rudebaugh could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The fire district serves the Athol and Bayview areas in northern Kootenai County and a small part of southern Bonner County.
Rudebaugh has served as commissioner for Zone 4, which is Athol, northwest of Athol and the Parks/U.S. 95 area.
Fish is commissioner for Zone 2, which includes northeast of Athol and the Good Hope area.
Both of their terms expire in 2013.
Recall proponents said that, contrary to some beliefs, the proposals to oust the commissioners were not about the firing of former Chief Jack Krill this year nor the subsequent agreement with Northern Lakes Fire to oversee the management of the district. Northern Lakes is the district south of Timberlake that covers Hayden, Hayden Lake and Rathdrum.
Recall advocates say they were upset about the commissioners not allowing public comment and a lack of public notice before those decisions regarding Krill and the management contract were made.
But Rudebaugh earlier said that the commissioners agreed to make statements and press releases from the board as a whole to protect the liability of the district. He denied there were any gag orders.
Fish and Rudebaugh were accused of violating open meeting laws by fellow commissioner Jon Guinn and the recall petition, but Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh cleared them of wrongdoing.
The petition also accused the commissioners of obtaining unnecessary legal advice and excessive special meetings, driving up costs. But the commissioners said legal advice and special meetings are part of responsible management.
Recall proponents say the commissioners tightened the district's budget to the point that it has faulty equipment, but the commissioners maintained the fleet is still operational and passed inspections.