BLACK DIAMOND, Wash. — In a small city in King County, one name is standing out.
The name Pepper is written across dozens of signs lining the streets.
“More like infamous at this time,” Black Diamond City Council member Pat Pepper said.
Pepper’s opponents gathered enough signatures to get her name on Tuesday’s ballot for a rare recall vote.
On Tuesday night, with 1,024 ballots counted out of a possible 2,891 ballots, the initial election results showed the vote to recall Pepper was 68.27% yes (667 votes) to 31.72% no (310 votes).
The following was reported earlier Tuesday.
“The last two years has been horrible,” City Council member Janie Edelman said.
Council meetings have gone nowhere many nights, with several council members verbally fighting with the mayor about how the meetings should be run.
During one altercation, Mayor Carol Benson had to grapple a gavel away from the hands of a former council member when that person sat in as mayor when Benson called for recess.
“It was astonishing,” Pepper said.
But Edelman is defending the mayor, saying Pepper and the others gave the mayor no choice.
“Our city government has been hijacked, what she was trying to do was get the gavel back,” Edelman said.
Edelman is accusing Pepper of failing to enact the mayor’s budget and approve meeting minutes. A judge recently also found Pepper in violation of the Open Public Meetings Act.
One reason for the years of infighting has to do with development in Black Diamond. Take, for example, the Ten Trails development where the city has approved building 4,800 units over the next 20 years.
In all, Black Diamond is slated for more than 6,000 units, which includes single-family homes, apartments and commercial space.
Pepper says that kind of growth is too much for a 4,300-person town. She says she’s just been fighting for what she believes is right.
“The future is rushing upon us, we don’t have the infrastructure, we don’t have the social services for people,” Pepper said.
But others disagree, saying Black Diamond is on the verge of a population boom and is estimated to grow to 20,000 people.
“We will never survive if we don’t have some growth,” Edelman said.
It’s now up to voters.
“There is enough evidence to do the recall; it’s up to the voters to do the right thing,” Edelman said.
“If you vote yes, I am down the road," Pepper said. "But you have to know you don’t get to choose the next council member, the council does."
Q13 News reached out to the mayor’s office on Tuesday but was told she would be back on Thursday.
Edelman says the city is finally back on track after getting two new council members. And in the first meeting of the year, Edelman says, the council passed 31 pieces of legislation.