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Judge dismisses lawsuit over county chairmanship

Bill Burnett - file photo
Bill Burnett
— image credit: file photo

A North Whidbey man's lawsuit over the chairmanship of the board of commissioners was dismissed Monday in Island County Superior Court.

Judge Alan Hancock ruled that Bill Burnett, who filed the action last July, had abandoned the lawsuit. Hancock awarded to Island County statutory attorney's fees in the amount of $200.

Burnett, acting as his own attorney, filed the "complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief" against the board of commissioners, as well as commissioners Helen Price Johnson and Jill Johnson individually.

Burnett asked the court to order the board of commissioners to reinstate Kelly Emerson as chairwoman and issue an injunction stopping the board from any actions while "an illegally elected chair" is presiding over meetings.

Burnett argued that the two commissioners acted outside of the law in removing Emerson as the chairperson last year and replacing her with "a first-term, first-year commissioner who would not normally be eligible for the chair position."

Johnson and Price Johnson voted during a July 10, 2013 meeting to remove Emerson as the chairwoman and replace her with Johnson; they were upset that Emerson defied the direction of the board by attending a public meeting in the other commissioners' districts.

The disagreement didn't run along party lines; Emerson and Johnson are Republicans while Price Johnson is a Democrat.

After filing the lawsuit, Burnett didn't take any of the necessary subsequent steps to keep the case alive.

Last November, Emerson nominated Johnson to be chairwoman in 2014. The motion was approved unanimously.

Burnett did not return a call for comment.

Burnett is known in the community as a political blogger and a repeat candidate for the Oak Harbor School Board.

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