Earlier this month, Shift reported that the King County Council voted to appoint school board chair and former Washington Education Association leader Carol Gregory to replace the late Representative Roger Freeman (D-30th LD) in the state House. Gregory was the 30th District Democrats’ first choice for the appointment.
The King County Council voted for Gregory’s appointment without the Pierce County Council—because the 30th LD falls within both counties’ jurisdiction, by law, the county councils must hold a joint meeting. The King County Council’s decision to proceed ahead of the Pierce County Council caused a public rift.
Yesterday, Pierce County Council Chairman Dan Roach attempted to remedy the tension by calling for a joint meeting in Tacoma to choose Freeman’s replacement. Roach’s King County Council counterpart rebuffed his plan, the latest in a series of snubs.
In an emailed statement, King County Council Chairman Larry Phillips said there would be “no joint session to pick a replacement for state Rep. Roger Freeman.” Phillips insisted that the King County Council already made its decision and fulfilled its obligation.
Roach says not so. He told the News Tribune, “It’s worked a certain way for decades, that is, having joint meetings with weighted (proportionate) voting… For whatever reason, they’ve decided to change course and not follow the state Constitution.”
Pierce County officials make a convincing case of their position. They point to a legal requirement of a joint meeting under a 1941 opinion of the state attorney general. Without a joint meeting, the “process used to replace Freeman will be challenged in court.”
According to the News Tribune, the Pierce County Council will recommend a replacement this Monday—whether or not King County takes part. If the Pierce County does not agree with King County’s appointee, there will be no joint appointment. In that case, the councils have until December 28th to agree on one of the three Democratic nominees. A failure to agree means the decision will be made by Jay Inslee.
This piece of political drama has us wondering, why is Larry Phillips going out of his way to make a relatively simple appointment so complicated? The fact that Pierce County has a Republican-led council might have something to do with it. The political weight of Freeman’s ultimate replacement makes or breaks Democrats’ chances of holding the seat in the next election cycle.
In any case, the unnecessary rift reveals the general lack of respect for ethics we’ve come to expect from Phillips.