February 22, 2019
OLYMPIA, WA – At a hearing on February 20, members of the Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) unanimously voted to remove two members of the Thurston Conservation District board based on findings that they committed neglect of duty and malfeasance in office.
Removal of the conservation district board members — Eric Johnson and Richard Mankamyer — is effective immediately.
The hearing was scheduled after SCC staff completed an investigation into the conduct of the Thurston Conservation District board and found potential cause to remove two members. Under state law, the Conservation Commission may remove a conservation district board member for demonstrating neglect of duty or malfeasance in office. Findings from the investigation into the conduct of the board are detailed in a report released in July 2018.
After considering the investigation findings, a written response by the conservation district board members, and testimony provided by witnesses as well as the rest of the record before them at the hearing, Commission members determined that Johnson and Mankamyer committed neglect of duty and malfeasance in office.
Conservation Commission members will provide their findings of fact at their March 21 meeting to the public.
This was the first time in the over 75-year history of the agency that the SCC exercised its statutory authority to remove a conservation district board supervisor through a contested hearing.
“At issue here was the potential of removing people from public office, which we take very seriously,” said Kirk Robinson, SCC interim executive director. “We took time to follow a thorough and fair process in close coordination with the State Attorney General’s Office.”
Process to replace board members
Mankamyer was elected to serve on the Thurston Conservation District board by the public, and Johnson was appointed by the SCC, which means there will be two different processes for filling their seats.
The Thurston Conservation District board will open a 30-day call for applications to fill the seat held by Mankamyer. The remaining members of conservation district board will select a replacement by majority vote. That person will serve out the rest of the unexpired term, which ends in May 2020. At that point Thurston Conservation District will hold a regular public election to fill that seat.
The SCC will open a 30-day call for applications for Johnson’s appointed seat. Commission members will appoint a new Thurston Conservation District board member by majority vote at their May 2019 meeting. That person will serve a three-year term.
Johnson and Mankamyer have the option to appeal the Conservation Commission’s decision to the courts.