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Judge allowing recall effort for Snohomish County sheriff to move forward

Sheriff Adam Fortney is under fire for announcing he would not enforce Governor Jay Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order. Now, the sheriff could get recalled.

EVERETT, Wash. — The recall effort against Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney will move forward.

The news came Friday after a judge said Fortney's decision to not enforce the state's stay-at-home order amounted to a violation of his oath to uphold the law.

Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning heard the case to avoid a conflict of interest with judges in Snohomish County.

Bothell resident Lori Shavlik filed the recall petition after Fortney posted on Facebook that he would refuse to enforce Gov. Jay Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order because it violated people's personal freedoms.

"As your elected sheriff I will always put your constitutional rights above politics or popular opinion," Fortney wrote. "The impacts of COVID-19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights."

RELATED: Snohomish County sheriff faces potential recall for defying Washington's stay-home order

Shavlik said the sheriff was putting his personal political beliefs before public safety.

"You absolutely have to stand by the statute of the law because it is the standard set by the government to establish safety for our communities," she said.

Soon after Fortney's post, a Snohomish barber blatantly broke the law and opened up for business. Bob Martin and his customers don't wear masks, nor do they social distance. Martin told KING 5 News that he reopened after feeling emboldened by the sheriff's words.

RELATED: Snohomish barber openly defying stay-home order receives cease and desist letter

Shavlik said the sheriff's words are putting people at risk.

"It's causing harm to people, even if it's a joke. Even if it's not true or he didn't mean to cause harm, it's causing harm," she said.

In a courtroom left mostly empty by the coronavirus lockdown, Fortney's attorney, Mark Lamb, argued via telephone that if a sheriff can be recalled for exercising his beliefs, where does it stop?

"That would also mean Governor Inslee would be subject to recall for failing to arrest 2,000 protesters who showed up at the State Capitol," said Lamb.

In the end, the judge sided with Shavlik who said she takes no joy in his decision. She simply wants her community kept safe.

"I'm not gonna be happy that I displaced someone from their job," she said. "It's about justice."

Shavlik now has 180 days to gather enough signatures, about 42,000, to put the recall to a vote of the people. 

That's something she concedes could be difficult to do during the coronavirus pandemic.