Court dismisses Union Fire recall petitions
October 27, 2022
Recall petitions for Mason County Fire Protection District 6 commissioners Richard Heinrich, Mike Sheetz and Troy Woodard didn’t move forward after a hearing Oct. 4 in Mason County Superior Court. Fire 6 is also known as Union Fire.
The case was heard by Superior Court Judge Monty Cobb and Robin Fender was the plaintiff.
“Petitions for recall are dismissed,” Cobb said toward the end of the hearing. “This is not a frivolous petition for awarding of fees under CR 11. There are things here that cause concern, that show a lack of transparency. And there may have been what seem to be good reasons for different things. There’s the, I want to go back, violation number three, which also includes discipline and supervising of employees, that’s also a very discretionary function for most circumstances but there’s just insufficient there, both on a factual and legal basis. Going back to the attorney’s fees, there’s no evidence that this is brought in bad faith. And it is not frivolous in my opinion so attorney’s fees are not awarded.”
According to the petition, the first violation claims commissioners Heinrich and Sheetz violated RCW 40.16.010 by altering a capital works project spending cap record and then distributing it to people at a July 2, 2019, public meeting. The altered record was then provided to the state auditor during the Fire District 6’s 2021 audit. Cobb dismissed the violation, and according to court records, found it to not be legally sufficient.
The second violation was for all three commissioners, stating they made false or misleading statements in a publicly paid mass mailer sent out to Fire District 6 voters prior to a November 2021 levy lid lift vote. The district stated the audit found no evidence of wrongdoing, while the document claims the audit documented numerous instances of wrongdoing. The violation claims the commissioners misled voters as to the auditor’s findings that the district had $1,000,000 in available reserve funds by falsely or misleadingly stating its reserve account had only $186,000.
Cobb dismissed the second violation as not factually sufficient. The Journal looked up the 2021 Mason County Fire District 6 audit report.
“This report describes the overall results and conclusions for the areas we examined. In those selected areas, district operations complied, in all material respects, with applicable state laws, regulations, and its own policies, and provided adequate controls over the safeguarding of public resources,” the audit report states. “However, we noted certain matters related to procurement and member recognition that we communicated to district management and the board of commissioners in a letter dated March 31, 2021. We appreciate the district’s commitment to resolving those matters. In keeping with general auditing practices, we do not examine every transaction, activity, policy, internal control, or area. As a result, no information is provided on the areas that were not examined.”
The third violation listed in the recall petition was for all three commissioners, stating the three failed to uphold their oath of office by not holding accountable fire district employees who altered public records, tampered with physical evidence to cover up and conceal the falsification of public records, made false statements under oath to law enforcement officers and obstructed a law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties. Cobb said the violation was not found to be factually sufficient.
Although the violations included Heinrich, he resigned from the commission Sept. 1, so all charges against Heinrich were dropped.