NWCitizen has acquired a copy of a legally threatening letter sent to the Districting Committee by a Seattle law firm, Smith & Lowney. The firm says it was retained by the “...group of individuals who spearheaded the effort to place Proposition 9 on the ballot…”, and says this informal group includes former Bellingham mayor Tim Douglas and Alex Ramel, both prominent in the leadership of the local Democratic Party.
The significance of this letter is it signals the opening of legal maneuvers and it is the liberals - the Democrats - who are starting the legal battle. This is surprising because the Democrats have been saying that if the committee is deadlocked then the issue should go to the county council, while the Republicans have been saying it should then go to the courts. With this letter, the Ds are pushing the issue to the courts first.
Two of those who helped put the proposition on the ballot have denied having anything to do with this letter or with the law firm or with anything to do with this. They are Todd Donovan and Rud Brown, both county council members. Todd helped draw up the proposition last June and Rud placed it on the council agenda for July 7. They each categorically denied even knowledge of contacting the law firm or the letter.
I tried reaching out to others in the group but have not recieved return phone calls. I will update as I find out, or not find out. Lisa McShane was part of the leadership of the group that created and placed prop 9 on the ballot, and she is now one of the four members of the districting committee.
Interestingly, the supporting documents below the letter include the prop 9 language but not the language of the ordinance passed by the county council from which county government staff then created the proposition 9. the ordinance language is different - and could be a legal issue in any court processes. The ordinance is in the council packet for last July 7 - here - and is about 9/10ths down the page and is labeled as bill 2015-205.
The letter is attached as a PDF and was emailed to the committee. The next meeting of the committee is tomorrow, Monday March 14 at noon in the county council chamger of the courthouse. Ralph Schwartz will be reporting on this meeting here on NWCitizen as he has been from the first meeting. This afternoon I will post the two new maps generated by the Districting Master that the committee will consider and discuss at tomorrow's meeting. Also, Samantha Wohlfeil has a good article in today's Bellingham Herald on this issue.