Witnesses will testify at a hearing Feb. 20 in Olympia on whether two Thurston Conservation District supervisors should be removed from office, Washington State Conservation Commission Interim Executive Director Kirk Robinson said today.

Accused of neglecting their duties and malfeasance, Eric Johnson and Richard Mankamyer, both Thurston County farmers, face expulsion from the five-member board by state conversation commissioners.

The commission originally planned to hear from Johnson and Mankamyer and ask questions, but not take testimony. Johnson and Mankamyer said the format was too informal for a fair hearing.

Robinson said lawyers for the commission and Johnson and Mankamyer planned to meet this week to decide on witnesses.

Johnson said Friday he probably will participate in the hearing.

"For sure, there should be witnesses, and they should be under oath. Otherwise it's all just rumors and hearsay," he said.

Efforts to reach Mankamyer were unsuccessful.

An investigation last year led by Robinson, before he was interim director, alleged Johnson and Mankamyer undermined the district's finances and morale. They deny any wrongdoing and attribute complaints against them to their questioning of how the district operates.

Johnson and Mankamyer have clashed with staff members and Supervisors Paul Pickett and Doug Rushton. Prodded by complaints from Johnson and Mankamyer, the state commission has agreed to investigate Pickett and Rushton. Robinson said he hoped the investigation will be finished by late February or early March.

Johnson and Mankamyer are suing the state conservation commissioners who will judge them. The federal lawsuit claims Johnson and Mankamyer's constitutional rights to due process are being violated. The lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court for Western Washington.

Johnson's appointment to the board will end in May. Johnson said he probably won't seek reappointment to the unpaid position, even if he isn't ousted by the state commission. "At this point, why would I have any desire?" he asked. "It's all bureaucracy."

Elected in 2017, Mankamyer's term runs until May 2020.

Three of the five supervisors are elected, while the other two are appointed by the state conservation commission. A hearing on removing Johnson and Mankamyer set for December was postponed because of medical emergencies involving the conservation commission's staff.

The rescheduled hearing will begin at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 20 in the Capitol Room of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 415 Capitol Way North, in Olympia.

Correspondent

Recommended for you