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Recall effort underway for Thurston County sheriff over not enforcing face mask mandate

Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza is facing a recall petition from some citizens due to his statement that deputies would not enforce Gov. Inslee's face mask rule.

THURSTON COUNTY, Wash. — A Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday a recall effort against Sheriff John Snaza for not enforcing Washington's face mask mandate can move forward.

"I really felt that by us informing and educating citizens about the importance of wearing a mask was fair enough. And obviously, Mr. West and the judge thought differently," Sheriff Snaza said during an interview with KING 5.

Arthur West lives in Olympia and started the recall effort after the Thurston County Sheriff's Office posted on its Facebook page stating deputies "would not" criminally enforce the face mask mandate put in place by Governor Jay Inslee. 

"He has a duty to enforce all the laws, not just the ones he agrees with," West said.

The judge’s ruling means West has 180 days to gather more than 23,000 signatures to get the recall on the November ballot. Sheriff Snaza said he will appeal the decision.

RELATED: Washington businesses now required to turn away customers without face masks

Sheriff Snaza would not commit to saying his deputies will fully enforce the mandate going forward, only saying he would leave it up to each deputy's discretion. But, he said the wording of the initial release didn’t reflect his intent.

"I used the wrong wording and I’m sorry for that," he said.

West said he believes Sheriff Snaza should be held to a higher standard as an elected official.

"I’m prepared to go the whole route," West said. "If our sheriff does not have a clear intent to keep us safe in this state, in this county, safe from a pandemic that’s killed nearly 150,000 Americans then he’s gotta go and I’ll have no problem getting the needed signatures."

Sheriff Snaza isn’t alone. 

In Snohomish County, Sheriff Adam Fortney is also facing a recall petition for his comments related to not enforcing the governor's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order. Fortney has appealed to the state supreme court to dismiss those efforts.

RELATED: Snohomish County sheriff asks court to dismiss recall efforts over coronavirus comments