Petition filed to recall NVH commissioners

TONASKET – Two area residents – Rosa Snider of Oroville and Danny Gratrix of Tonasket – filed a statement on Monday, Feb. 25, with the Okanogan County auditor’s office seeking the recall of the entire North Valley Hospital Board of Commissioners.

The statements allege malfeasance (wrongful or illegal conduct), misfeasance (performance of duty in an improper manner) and violation of the oath of office (knowingly failing to perform faithfully duties imposed by law.

“This is our absolute last resort,” Snider said. “No one wanted to do this, but the false information and their aggressiveness left us feeling we had no other option.”

The specifics of alleged improprieties range from financial to managerial to legal, including violations of the Open Meetings Act, as well as creating conditions that have eroded the patient base and undermined provider recruitment and retention.

The statement also asks the court to direct the board to “resend (sic) or suspend its decision” the Assisted Living facility; prevent the Board from engaging in negotiations involving the closure or suspension of any hospital district services for 120 days; prevent the Board from appointing to any open positions, leaving that decision to the Okanogan County Board of Commissioners; and direct the Board from making changes to its charity care policy without “community review and approval.”

Snider’s background of 17 years in hospital administration, management, billing and advocacy helped her with the process of compiling her statement.

“I feel like a lint collector in a yarn factory, there’s so much there,” she said.

NVH Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Helen Casey said she had no comment Monday afternoon, as she had not yet been served with the statement and didn’t know its contents.

The auditor’s office will serve each of the commissioners – Casey, Lael Duncan, Dick Larson, Clarice Nelson and Herb Wandler – with the statement within three days of the filing, as well as provide a copy to the Okanogan County Prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office will provide a ballot synopsis within 15 days of receipt.

The ballot synopsis will then be submitted to the Okanogan County Superior Court, which will hold a hearing to determine sufficiency of the charges (in other words, do the charges fit the definition of “malfeasance, misfeasance and violation of the oath of office”) as presented. Both the petitioners and the subjects of the recall may appear at the hearing, with counsel if desired.

If the court determines in their favor, the petitioners will have a maximum of 180 days to submit enough signatures to force a recall election, which would be 35 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for each commissioner’s position.

Mila Jury, Okanogan County Chief Deputy/Certified Election Administrator with the auditor’s office, said that if the process reaches that stage, that would likely necessitate five separate recall petitions.

“There probably will have to be a separate one for each board member,” Jury said. “There were different numbers of votes cast for each, so the number of signatures required will differ for each one.”

Votes cast in each commissioner’s last election varied from 677 to 825. The threshold to be put on a ballot to be recalled will fall between 237 and 289 depending on the position.

A recall election would have to occur between 45 and 60 days of the certification of the signatures on the petitions, should the threshold be reached, and could include any combination of or all of the commissioners. Due to the timing, that would likely mean a special election specifically for the recall.

Jury said it was an unprecedented situation.

“Most recalls involve just one person,” she said. “And we haven’t had many in Okanogan County at all.”

She said the last recall petition filed in the county was against Conconully mayor Leland Church in 2006, which was ruled by the court not to meet the requirements for sufficiency of charges.

The last such successful recall effort was against Okanogan County Prosecuting Attorney Jeremiah McCormick in 1977.