SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney could lose his position, after a resident filed for his recall following his announcement that he would not enforce Gov. Jay Inslee's stay at home order.
"I think that an elected law enforcement official is to enforce the law," said petitioner Lori Shavlik of Bothell. "They don't get to decide if the law is correct or not."
In order to place a recall on the ballot, petitioners must collect 35% of the total number of votes cast for all Snohomish County sheriff candidates.
Fortney requested that the recall charge be defended at the public's expense. Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell denied the request and said it would only be reconsidered if, after judicial review, the petition is "false and frivolous."
Shavlik's petition, filed April 23, alleges Fortney "encouraged the public" to violate the stay-home order.
"It's very dangerous for him to be in office holding the position and not enforcing the law," Shavlik said.
Shavlik's filing was the day after Fortney made the announcement on Facebook that he would refuse to enforce the order. Gov. Inslee had just extended many restrictions that implemented to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
"As your Snohomish County Sheriff, yes I believe that preventing business owners to operate their businesses and provide for their families intrudes on our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Fortney wrote. "I am greatly concerned for our small business owners and single-income families who have lost their primary source of income needed for survival."
Fortney's statement encouraged barber Bob Martin to reopen his shop, before getting the go-ahead from the state. Barbershops are not among the Phase 1 businesses that are set to open within the next few weeks.
Fortney after making his statement, Fortney argued that if the novel coronavirus isn't as lethal as originally thought, it may be time to reopen the state.
"The impacts of COVID 19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights," Fortney said.
Fortney urged residents to contact their local lawmakers and demand businesses to be allowed to reopen and employees to return to work if they choose.
Inslee addressed Fortney's statements shortly afterward, saying that ending stay-at-home orders now would be "gambling" with people's lives and that the order is state law.
"I do think that encouraging illegal activity jeopardizes the health of people in our communities," Inslee said. "It also puts them in potential legal jeopardy."