Local activist launches another recall of Thurston County Commissioner Tye Menser

Martín Bilbao/The Olympian
·3 min read

A local activist is once again petitioning to recall Thurston County Commissioner Tye Menser, this time for allegedly mismanaging the board as chair last year.

County Auditor Mary Hall’s Office received a 58-page complaint Jan. 7 from Jon Pettit, a frequent speaker at board meetings, she confirmed. The document targets Menser, alleging he committed malfeasance, misfeasance, and violated the oath of office.

Under state law, a Superior Court judge must conduct a hearing within 15 days of receiving the petition to determine if the allegations satisfy the criteria for a recall.

If the judge deems the allegations sufficient, then Pettit would need to gather signatures totaling 25% of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for Menser’s office during his last election in 2018.

Over the years, Pettit has repeatedly petitioned to recall officials and appeal decisions he has disagreed with. His previous petition to recall Menser failed in 2020 after a visiting judge dismissed his charges as legally and factually insufficient.

Earlier that year, a different judge dismissed his challenge to Carolina Mejia’s candidacy for Thurston County Commissioner, rejecting his allegation that she wasn’t a U.S. citizen. She now serves as chair of the board.

Notably, a judge dismissed Pettit’s attempt to recall three members of the Olympia City Council in 2018 after concluding his case against them was “frivolous.”

In his latest petition, Pettit accuses Menser of five charges related to meeting minutes, budget actions and meeting scheduling.

First, he alleges the board failed to provide access to minutes for all regular and special meetings as required by state law. In his second charge, he claims the county withholds records of all proceedings and determinations from the public.

With his third and fourth charges, Pettit alleges the board misappropriated public funds. These charges stem from Pettit’s opposition to how the county went about purchasing the Mottman Complex and creating a budget stabilization fund.

In June 2021, the county spent $5.6 million to buy the Mottman Complex at the intersection of Ferguson Street Southwest and 29th Avenue in Tumwater at Auditor Mary Hall’s request.

Hall’s office previously leased space at the complex to run elections and process ballots. With the purchase, Hall can expand to meet her needs and consolidate her staff there ahead of the next presidential election cycle.

Around the same time, the county set aside $2 million for a budget stabilization fund, a rainy-day fund intended to ensure financial stability.

In his fifth charge, Pettit accuses the board of failing to schedule sufficient public meetings. This charge comes in response to the board canceling some meetings close to the holidays.

Pettit told The Olympian he chose to target Menser because he served as the chair of the board when the alleged charges took place.

Menser’s term will conclude at the end of 2022. Although he personally wants Menser to be replaced, Pettit said his action has more to do with the rule of law.

“No, it’s not just a political thing,” Pettit said. “Tolerance has run out. Because of the situation, do we want to continue to have somebody involved that has as much disregard for following the state law as Commissioner Menser has shown?”

Though he failed last time, Pettit remains hopeful he will succeed with his latest effort.

“I believe there is a strong foundation for approving the recall to go forward,” Pettit said. “I intend to pursue it completely including a full campaign effort at such time that it would be approved.”

Menser declined to respond to Pettit’s latest allegations, citing pending litigation.

In 2020, Menser told The Olympian he believes Pettit makes it a “full-time hobby” to scare elected officials into taking actions he supports or not taking actions he opposes.

At the time, Menser said the “constant stream of frivolous letters and legal actions waste enormous amounts of time and tax dollars.”

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