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King County Judge Tosses Out Eyman's Camera Petition Lawsuit

The anti red light camera activist had filed a lawsuit that would have required the City of Redmond to hand in a petition calling for a vote on its camera enforcement program.

The campaign to put Redmond's controversial traffic camera enforcement program to a vote suffered a major blow Tuesday when a King County Superior Court judge tossed out a .

Eyman and other anti-camera proponents had sought to require Redmond city clerk Michelle McGehee to turn in a that would have required a citizen vote on the traffic program. Redmond businessman Scott Harlan, who lives in unincorporated Redmond, led the petition effort, which and resulted in more than 6,000 signatures.

Outside the courtroom, Eyman said he saw the ruling as a threat to citizens' right to petition.

"It's an appalling ruling, I'm disgusted by it, and I think the City of Redmond just kicked a hornet's nest," he said.

By for verification, city officials said they were acting on the legal precedent of a recent ruling in Bellingham by Division 1 of the Washington Court of Appeals that determined camera enforcement programs are not valid matters for initiative. Eyman and his supporters, meanwhile, argued that McGehee was breaking the law by not complying with RCW 35.21.005, which states that a public official who receives a petition has three business days to file it with the county auditor.

In giving her ruling, Judge Laura C. Inveen said McGehee overstepped her role as city clerk but also agreed with Redmond's city attorney James Haney that the Bellingham appeals ruling made the petition a legally "useless act."

"(The) Bellingham case couldn't have said it clearer when it held that an initiative almost identical to the proposed Redmond initiative exceeds the lawful scope of local initiative power and is not a valid ballot initiative," Inveen said. "By state statute, the authority for approving traffic cameras is with the Redmond City Council and the mayor."

City Council President Richard Cole said he expected the judge to rule in the city's favor.

"I think both sides knew what the law was before we even started doing it, and this just confirms it," he said.

Redmond Mayor John Marchione also issued a statement Tuesday regarding the ruling.

"Today’s court ruling is a strong affirmation of the City of Redmond’s action to fulfill its responsibilities and not abdicate its role to ‘government-by-initiative’," he stated. "The city’s actions are guided by law that the decision to use traffic camera enforcement is reserved for the city council only. While repeated court rulings on Eyman initiatives have made this clear, some continue to create a false expectation."

Daniel Quick, a Seattle attorney who represented Eyman at the hearing, said an appeal to Tuesday's ruling is possible. Quick said he and his team will also be keeping a close eye on a motion filed last week that asks the state supreme court to take on the Bellingham case.

But Harlan said the delay in signature validation has already severely damaged his petition campaign, should it be allowed to move forward. Until the petition is validated, he will not know whether he needs to gather additional signatures, and some of the petition signers could move out of the city in the meantime.

"There is irreparable harm being done to our initiative as the calendar goes on," he said. "This was extremely premature."

The Redmond City Council, meanwhile, will begin its evaluation of the pilot program at . Council members must decide by Dec. 1 whether they want to continue the city's contract with camera vendor American Traffic Solutions.

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