Washington Supreme Court

The Washington Temple of Justice in Olympia. Two Thurston County farmers are asking the state Supreme Court to review a lower court decision denying them from collecting fees from the State Conservation Commission.

Two Thurston County farmers petitioned the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday, claiming the State Conservation Commission should pay for taking a shortcut to remove them as conservation district supervisors.

Eric Johnson and Richard Mankamyer allege the Court of Appeals Division II erred in denying them penalties and attorney fees, even though the court agreed they should have been tried under more formal proceedings.

Johnson and Mankamyer are asking the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s ruling. The conservation commission declined to comment.

The conservation commission in 2019 voted to remove Johnson and Mankamyer from the Thurston Conversation District board after a one-day hearing conducted under the law guiding public meetings.

The appeals court ruled the conservation commission should have granted Johnson and Mankamyer’s request for a formal adjudication under the state’s Administrative Procedure Act.

Trying Johnson and Mankamyer in a more informal hearing was a misuse and violation of the Open Public Meetings Act, according to the appeals court.

Nevertheless, the court declined to award Johnson and Mankamyer penalties or attorney fees. The three-judge panel ruled the hearing was fair enough.

In the petition to the Supreme Court, Johnson and Mankamyer’s attorney, Shawn Timothy Newman, argues the appeal court’s ruling conflicts with prior rulings awarding fees for violating the Open Public Meetings Act.

Johnson and Mankamyer blamed conflicts with staff members and two other supervisors over conservation district’s direction and priorities. The board’s fifth supervisor spoke out in support of Johnson and Mankamyer.

The conservation commission, meeting in executive session, decided Johnson and Mankamyer had interfered with district operations and acted inappropriately.

Johnson and Mankamyer, whose terms would have expired by now, are not seeking a return to the board.

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