Political activist files suit to force City Council to deal with ‘sanctuary ordinance’ 1

Craig Keller during public comment at the Burien City Council meeting on July 31, 2017.

By Jack Mayne

Political activist Craig Keller (pictured, left) has filed suit in King County Superior Court, demanding the Court order the Burien City Council to either put the city’s controversial sanctuary ordinance on the November election ballot or totally repeal it.

“The City should not be able to take no action and frustrate the right of citizens to either have their proposed initiative adopted or placed on the ballot at the next election, here, the election in November,” according to Keller’s suit, requesting a “writ of mandate,” which is legalese for a judicial command.

The Burien Council at a special July 31 session spent hours haggling over the repeal or placing the matter on the ballot. At that meeting, City Attorney Lisa Marshall attempted to inform Councilmembers that state law required it to either repeal the so-called Sanctuary ordinance or to ask King County Elections to place the proposal on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

The Council did neither.


November 7 possible
Now Keller – a former Republican candidate for Congress and founder of a group called Respect Washington – wants a King County Superior Court judge to order the Burien City Council to repeal or place it on the ballot. Keller was also the organizer of the somewhat controversial petition drive to repeal the city’s “sanctuary” Ordinance 651.

City Manager Brian Wilson told The B-Town Blog on Wednesday (Aug. 2) that King County Elections likely would be able to still place the issue on the ballot, adding that there are a number of confusing and conflicting problems with the current law that would permit adding the issue after the Aug. 1 deadline.

Wilson said the “option to do nothing was considered by staff” but it was rejected on advice of City Attorney Lisa Marshall as well as “the potential legal exposure to the city.”

Keller, in his request for a writ of mandate filed by the Bellevue law firm of Stephens and Klinge, said the Council could not do “nothing.”

Keller admitted publicly on July 31 that – despite referencing his address as a Burien P.O. Box – that he is not a resident.

Same choices again
“An argument could be made that its failure to immediately cause the initiative to be placed on the ballot means that the city has committed to adopting the measure without alteration,” Keller’s legal complaint said. “Plaintiff (Keller) does not take such an aggressive stance, but believes the City still has the opportunity to make a choice even though it has violated the law with its current delay.

“However, the requested writ of mandate unfortunately is necessary for the city to make a choice.”

“The City should not be able to take no action and frustrate the right of citizens to either have their proposed initiative adopted (ordinance repealed) or placed on the ballot at the next election, here, the election in November.”

Keller asks for a quick order due to time restraints.

The choices are the same as the Council faced last week – put the matter on the November ballot or repeal it entirely, a matter than tied the Council in knots with tempers flaring at times and their special session ending with no action taken.

Download a PDF of the lawsuit here.