BAYVIEW — A recall election in Bayview that spanned two counties and resulted in the removal of two members of the water and sewer district almost didn’t happen, as plaintiffs attempted to circumvent voters.
It took an 11th-hour ruling by a First District judge to allow the Nov. 5 recall vote to move forward.
Water and sewer district board vice-chair Robyn Edwards was recalled by a 154 to 54 margin by Kootenai County voters, and board chair Sharon Meyer was recalled by a 154 to 52 margin. Both former board members rallied Bonner County voters who opposed recalling Edwards and Meyer by a margin of 21 to 3 — not enough to retain Edwards and Meyer.
According to court records, board members used taxpayer money to hire an attorney to help them resist a ballot measure, despite confirmation by a county election official that a recall election was the proper remedy for voters.
In a lawsuit filed against Bayview resident Bill Somers, who gathered voter signatures on a recall petition, and against Kootenai County, which processed and certified the petitions, the water and sewer district at the behest of Meyer and Edwards challenged the recall process.
In complaints filed in October, both former members attempted to show that a judicial review — not voters — should decide whether they should stay on the board. But attorney Kinzo Mihara, who represented Somers, said a recall puts the decision in the hands of voters, where it belongs.
“It’s a fundamental right,” Mihara said at an Oct. 28 hearing. “Bayview argues that it is not.”
Mihara said the district was betraying the people it was supposed to serve by asking the court to decide if the two former board members should remain on the board.
Sewer district attorneys argued that two opposing statutes exist in Idaho. One of them allows voters to decide a recall while another says it’s in a judge’s hands.
Mihara said the Supreme Court laid the question to rest long ago, and District Judge Lansing Haynes agreed.
In a brief opinion filed the day before the election, Haynes stated simply that the statute supporting voters deciding a recall “was the appropriate statute for the recall of Sharon Meyer and Robyn Edwards.”
In a court hearing, Meyer, a 4½-year board member, said the assertions by Somers and others that she and Edwards weren’t doing a good job “are not true at all,” and that there was a “frenzy in town” because the board’s decisions went against the wishes of some district patrons.
“I was elected by majority,” Meyer said. “Other people think we are doing a good job.”
Patrons wanted both women removed, Somers said in court records, because “they failed and lost the public trust ... engaged in reckless disregard for the concerns of patrons and voters ... (their) leadership has resulted in the mismanagement of assets... engaged in what appear to be predetermined decisions and actions ... treated patrons in a condescending manner ... engaged in ... abuse of authority of office.”
Board member Calvin Nolan said the recall was discussed by the board in a hastily organized special meeting, which Nolan called improper because it did not allow time for all members to attend. In a Sept. 9 meeting, Nolan told the board he opposed a lawsuit because a recall election is legitimate and “taxpayers would be paying for an unnecessary lawsuit.”
Bonner County joined Kootenai County by allowing a decision regarding the recall to be rendered in Kootenai County’s First District Court.
Once a board member is recalled, they must leave the board immediately. Vacant seats are filled by appointment.