Eyman files suit against city concerning traffic-enforcement cameras

State initiative advocate Tim Eyman wants a judge to decide the next step of Redmond's first-ever, citizen-driven initiative concerning the city's controversial traffic-enforcement program.

State initiative advocate Tim Eyman wants a judge to decide the next step of Redmond’s first-ever, citizen-driven initiative concerning the city’s controversial traffic-enforcement program.

Eyman, a co-sponsor of the initiative, hired an attorney, who filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court earlier today, ordering Redmond’s city clerk to forward the petition she received earlier this month to the county auditor.

“Redmond Mayor John Marchione and the City Council have made a conscious decision to violate the law,” according to Eyman’s sworn declaration filed by Seattle attorney Daniel Quick.

Quick asserts that state law requires the city to forward the signatures to the county auditor to validate the signatures. In the motion and memorandum, he cited RCW 35.21.005, which states: “Within three working days after the filing of a petition, the officer with whom the petition is filed shall transmit the petition to the county auditor for petitions signed by registered voters, or to the county assessor for petitions signed by property owners for determination of sufficiency.”

The lawsuit was filed after the mayor announced last week that the city has no plans of turning the 6,050 signatures over to the county auditor to be validated for a possible ballot item in a special election next February. Marchione said last week that city officials believe the petition is not legally subject to initiative, based a court ruling earlier this month in Bellingham.

Eyman said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the county’s chief presiding judge will sign an order ordering the city to forward the initiative petitions to the auditor.

“I think proving harm literally is an impossible task,” Eyman said. “What’s the harm in letting the initiative to proceed?”

Union Hill resident Scott Harlan, another co-sponsor of the initiative who led the signature campaign to put the issue on the ballot, said the city needs to follow state law.”It is unconscionable for the city to have done what they have done,” Harlan said.

“You cannot have a city sort of sit on these (signatures) and set a precedent down the road.”

A hearing on the motion will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 1:30 p.m. at the King County Courthouse in Seattle. The hearing is set for the same day as a scheduled City Council study session, where council members will deliberate the future of the city’s pilot traffic-enforcement program, which features three red-light cameras an one school-zone speed camera.

City officials contend that a public vote by be a moot point if  council members vote to end the contract with camera vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) before the Dec. 1 deadline.

Elected officials were advised by City Attorney Jim Haney that they were not required to forward the petition based on a recent state Court of Appeals decision Bellingham, Marchione said last Wednesday afternoon. The three-judge panel Court of Appeals ruled Bellingham’s initiative to ban the cameras can stay on the November ballot, but it will not be legally binding.

But in Bellingham, the court is still allowing the issue to be put before the voters, while Redmond is trying to block a public vote, Eyman said.

“Even in the case they are citing, the court is allowing the vote to happen,” Eyman said. “They don’t have a legal leg to stand on.”

Eyman added that the Bellingham case is being appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Marchione said last week that the cost of the special election, estimated at $70,000-80,000, is another reason for not forwarding the petition to the county.

In Eyman’s sworn declaration, he wrote “Mayor Marchione should not be allowed to blatantly violate state law in order to avoid the costly inconvenience of democracy.”

The city received official notice of the litigation Wednesday morning, according to City Clerk Michelle McGehee. The city released the following statement:

“Following the City’s legal review, we are advised the proposed Redmond initiative is virtually identical to the City of Bellingham initiative deemed invalid by a recent Court of Appeals ruling and not subject to the initiative process. Despite the court’s ruling on the petition’s validity, the Council and Mayor have heard the perspective of our residents who signed it, and will consider this along with all the data and other feedback we have received as part of our pilot traffic/school zone safety program review at a study session scheduled for October 11. The city’s evaluation on whether or not to continue the pilot program will be completed by December, well before the proposed referendum can be held in February.”

News of the lawsuit comes as the city continues its evaluation process of the pilot program, which began with a one-month warning period last February.

The Redmond Police Department will release the latest traffic violation data at today’s (Sept. 27) City Council public safety committee meeting at City Hall at 4:30. Council members will discuss the matter at its Oct. 11 study session and vote on the issue as early as the Oct. 18 business meeting or as late as Nov. 29, which would require a special session by the council. The city has until Dec. 1 to submit its plans to extend the program or not to the camera vendor, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), according to the camera contract.