Snohomish County Sheriff has to pay for legal defense of recall petition, county prosecutor says

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney, who made the news last month when he said he wouldn’t enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the COVID-19 outbreak, will have to pay for his own legal defense against a recall petition filed against him.

In an April 28 letter to Fortney, Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell denied the Fortney’s request to have the county pay for his legal defense related to the recall petition, filed shortly after Fortney posted an open letter to “Snohomish County Residents and Business Owners” that criticized the governor’s efforts that reiterated his position “to not carry out any enforcement for the current a stay-at-home order.”

Under the Washington state law governing recall elections, before the recall process can go forward, there must be a show of cause in superior court that the recall effort is not based on “false and frivolous charges.” Fortney requested that the county cover his legal expenses, pointing to a law that indemnifies public officials if they are acting in their official capacity.

However, Cornell told Fortney that the April 21 “public statements made by you on a personal Facebook page, which serve as the basis of the charge, do not warrant a defense at public expense.”

In fact, Cornell said, Fortney’s Facebook post encouraged people “to disobey data-driven, science-based lawful orders handed down expressly to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect our health and well-being during this pandemic emergency.

“Put simply, your words were akin to yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Cornell said.

Our online news partner The Seattle Times reported that Monroe resident Lori Shavlik filed the petition with the city auditor seeking to recall Fortney, a 23-year veteran sheriff’s patrol sergeant who took office in January after defeating incumbent Ty Trenary. The petition alleged that Fortney’s refusal to enforce the governor’s emergency orders and his decision to label the orders unconstitutional constituted malfeasance and are grounds for his recall.

If a judicial review of the charge determines that the petition is false and frivolous, Cornell said that “upon request, I will revisit my determination that any costs associated with defending the petition should be covered at taxpayer expense.” The matter would also require independent review and approval by the Snohomish County Council.



  1. If his actions are deemed appropriate , is this then a green light for citizens to disobey laws that don’t serve their own purposes.

  2. Our stay at home order is not an actual law, that is why nobody in the state has been arrested for breaking it. Other states have been taking their stay at home orders much more seriously with quite a few arrests, most have been tossed, some are still in the legal process.

  3. The governor has not asked state LE to enforce the executive order, at least not yet. I suspect if he does, that’s when we might begin to see some arrests.

    The sheriff was elected just last year after running a tough-on-crime campaign, and his winning margin was 11%, or nearly 20,000 votes. On his Facebook page

    there are 16k emoticon responses to his April 21 post. Of these, 10k are the thumbs-up “Like”, 4.5k are the heart “Love”, and only 820 are the frown-face “Dislike”. That’s a pretty substantial ratio favoring the sheriff.

    Someone has already started a GoFundMe account to defend the sheriff

    and far more money will be donated than he needs – more than 800 donors have contributed nearly $50,000 as of this writing. The election results and the FB unofficial response ratio strongly suggest that a recall will fail, and that instead the sheriff’s pro-business, tough-on-crime bona fides will be strengthened. The excess GoFundMe money might even find its way into his re-election campaign war chest, directly or as part of a PAC.

    The story was covered by King5 last Tuesday:

    Finally, the petitioner, Lori Shavlik, has previously made allegations against both the former Snohomish County Sheriff AND the former Snohomish County Prosecutor.

  4. Adam Fortney’s Facebook page (which is likely only looked at by people who approve of him) is hardly indicative of his support in the county.

    I find it amusing for Adam Fortney to claim to care about Constitutional Rights now (something he’s never shown the slightest regard for previously). The fact is, Adam Fortney is only going to cost this county more money the longer he’s in office. For example, Fortney re-hired a deputy who was fired for murdering someone while on duty. The county paid out over a million to the victim’s family in that case. The next time Wallin (the murderer) hurts or kills someone on duty, the county is going to pay many times more, because now the county is responsible for hiring a known murderer, giving him a gun, and turning him loose on the streets.

    Adam Fortney doesn’t care about Constitutional Rights or the well-being of Snohomish County. He cares about protecting his buddies. Snohomish County deserves better.

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