All five charges in a recall effort against Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier are “factually and legally insufficient,” a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled this month.
The recall effort was launched weeks prior by Tenino resident Geraldine Iverson and hinged on the small town mayor’s 2019 assault charge, the city’s recent loss of $270,000 to scammers and other allegations.
Fournier said he expected the effort to flop in court, recently calling Iverson the “serial bully of the city,” whose back-and-forth with Tenino began about two years ago.
“It’s nice to feel vindicated,” he told The Chronicle after the ruling. “But at the same time, it’s frustrating that somebody would monopolize the city’s resources and money.”
Fournier’s request that the court impose fines on Iverson — through a legal rule meant to discourage frivolous legal pursuits — was denied by Judge James Dixon, who said Iverson was “not acting in bad faith.”
Fournier estimated the cost to the city at a few thousand dollars.
Dixon ruled that Iverson’s first charge — that Fournier had failed to file his oath of office with the county auditor — was moot.
“Ms. Iverson concedes that the oaths of office were properly filed,” Dixon said during March 18 proceedings.
The charge regarding a 2019 incident in which a drunken Fournier was kicked out of the Tenino Eagles Club, reportedly yelling “I’m the f——- mayor of Tenino,” was also ruled as insufficient.
According to Dixon, there is no evidence that Fournier was using his office to receive a favor, and that even if he was, “any such violation is de minimis at best.”
“First of all, Ms. Iverson wasn’t there. She’s relying on police reports, which are, of course, hearsay, and in this case hearsay upon hearsay,” he said. “... Arguably it may have been bad form or ill-advised for the mayor to use his title in that type of a setting, but it’s not malfeasance. It’s not misfeasance.”
In the charge that Fournier violated the constitution by loaning money to an agency that turned out to be fraudsters, Dixon cited the fact that “it was the clerk who asked the city council to make the loan.”
The city is currently in a legal battle with its insurance company in an attempt to recoup its losses.
Dixon ruled that there was “simply no evidence” to support Iverson’s fourth allegation, that the mayor gifted public funds to forgive utility bills.
And in Iverson’s final charge — that Fournier raised property tax rates without public notice — Dixon echoed what Fournier had said previously.
“The record shows that the mayor was not even present at the meeting,” he said, adding that the city approved an increased tax revenue, not a tax rate.
The court will officially present its order at 9 a.m.on April 2.