VANCOUVER — Clark County Councilor David Madore said it was a victory for the citizens.
“Citizens won in court today!’’ Madore told ClarkCountyToday.com Friday. “The Clark County manager and county council majority must obey the law guaranteeing transparency!’’
Madore’s comments were in reference to a Friday ruling by Judge Daniel Stahnke in Clark County Superior Court in response to a lawsuit he filed on behalf of the citizens against his fellow councilors Marc Boldt, Jeanne Stewart and Julie Olson and County Manager Mark McCauley.
Stahnke ruled that the county must follow its own requirement to publicize all contracts on its website, The Grid. Madore filed his lawsuit after Boldt, Stewart and Olson voted to approve Ordinance No. 2016-11-04. Madore and fellow councilor Tom Mielke voted against the ordinance, written by Clark County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Horne.
The ordinance included several proposed amendments to Clark County Code 2.09.030, adopted on May 26, 2015.
During the discussion by the councilors and staff, Horne indicated the primary purpose of the new ordinance was to provide the county manager the authority to not publicly post Human Resources contracts that were sensitive in nature. Horne indicated it was rare that the county would deal with contracts of that nature, but it had been the case on three recent occasions.
Madore said it wasn’t the first time McCauley and the council majority of Boldt, Olson and Stewart “illegally conducted county business.’’
“The first finding by Judge Stephen Warning in July found that the county violated county ordinance 2.09.030 intended to provide transparency and accountability,’’ Madore wrote on his public Facebook page on Saturday. “That law states that all proposed county contracts must be posted on the Contracts Grid for one week before the county manager can execute them.
During that week, any county councilor can review each proposed contract and pull it at their discretion. If pulled, then that contract must be approved by a majority vote of the council in order to be executed by the county manager.
“The transparency provides citizens and their representatives with a system of checks and balance for open accountable government that helps guard against exorbitant contracts, secret insider deals, favoritism, and public funds wasted on political or personal vendettas,’’ Madore wrote. “The July case before Judge Warning was the recall of Marc Boldt, Julie Olson, and Jeanne Stewart (that is still active since it was appealed to our State Supreme Court and on their docket yesterday) for other alleged illegal activity. That was a different case, so Judge Warning did not order the county to comply in July.’’
Madore indicated that is why he filed his lawsuit. Stahnke’s ruling will force the county to comply with its own ordinance.
“Instead of the county correcting the violation, they continued to award secret county contracts using county funds to investigate their political adversaries (Tom Mielke and David Madore),’’ Madore wrote. “The county then pursued personal charges against David Madore’s Attorney Nick Power with a Rule 11 charge that claimed that his actions were frivolous and without merit.
“Today’s Superior Court ruling dismissed the county’s charge as false and without merit,’’ Madore wrote. “The judge further ruled that the case had so much merit, that he granted the extraordinary intervention of granting the Writ of Mandamus and ordered the county to comply with the law they had violated. This victory is a refreshing turn for citizens wishing to drain the swamp.’’
In addition to the lawsuit, Madore filed a referendum on Nov. 9 with the Clark County Auditor’s Office seeking to have the approval of the Nov. 4 ordinance passed by the Board of Clark County Councilors overturned by Clark County voters. Prior to filing the referendum, Madore collected the signatures of 256 registered voters, easily surpassing the required number of 100.
Madore, who is founder and owner of ClarkCountyToday.com, told the news organization his reason for filing the referendum.
“We committed to transparency and accountability in how we do the people’s business and this violates all of that,’’ Madore said.
The signatures collected by Madore were later validated by the county and the ordinance was suspended, giving Madore 120 days to collect the number of valid signatures equal to no less than 10 percent of the total votes cast in the county in the last gubernatorial election, which total 19,351 signatures required. Madore plans to follow through on that effort so the measure will be placed on the ballot and voters will have to ability to vote on the issue.
“Yes, we do plan to widely share the petition to collect sufficient signatures as transparency and accountability are embraced by the vast majority of the citizens,’’ Madore said.
While Stahnke ruled in favor with Madore’s lawsuit on the primary issue of transparency, the judge denied two other claims contained in the suit. The judge ruled that the county didn’t have to provide Madore emails he requested between McCauley and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Stahnke also ruled against a request to have Madore’s attorney paid for by the county based on the claim that the prosecutor’s office was too conflicted to represent him.
“The suit was to defend citizens, not myself,’’ Madore said. “So the last item not granted by the judge was the request for the attorney’s work on behalf of the citizens (rather than on my behalf) to be paid by the county. I have borne the cost of defending the citizens at my own expense and will continue to do so. I respect the decisions by the judge as fair.”