Submitted by James P. Grifo.
On April 19, 2021, Judge Lee Grochmal of the Whatcom County Superior Court entered an Order requiring the Senior Services Council of San Juan County (SSCSJC) to hold new District Operations Committee elections.
This decision stems from a lawsuit filed on Dec. 31, 2019, which was brought against the SSCSJC, its Board of Directors, and the San Juan County District Operations Committee for eliminating the voting and membership rights of San Juan County seniors and disabled persons, and for ignoring recall petitions signed by more than 100 members of the San Juan District.
On Aug. 15, 2019, in a hurried and apparently secret process that did not follow their own governing documents, six board members of the SSCSJC attempted to consolidate power among themselves by terminating the membership of San Juan County seniors and disabled persons and eliminating their rights to annually elect District representatives – turning upside down a democratic custom and practice that has been in place for almost 40 years.
Seniors and the disabled in each of the three island districts, Lopez (Woodmen Hall), Orcas (Orcas Senior Center), and San Juan (Mullis Senior Center), have historically been represented by up to 15 elected District Operations Committee members for each District. In turn, these operating committees annually elect three representatives from their midst to serve one-year terms on the Board of the SSCSJC. In August of 2019, the SSCSJC Board attempted to eliminate District elections, and also attempted to give themselves the sole authority to appoint District Operations Committee members and SSCSJC Board members.
The Plaintiffs in this case strongly support the mission of taking care of County seniors and disabled persons. The Plaintiffs objected to the termination of a 40-year democratic process that has insured public transparency and accountability over some four million dollars in Community assets. Numerous members of the San Juan Island community supported the Plaintiffs’ efforts to resolve this matter in Court. It is their hope that all of those who are eligible to vote in the upcoming Court-ordered elections – all County residents 60 years of age or older and disabled persons – will join in voting for representatives of their choice to sit on their respective District Operations Committees. It is vital that this long-standing tradition of democratic representation, community involvement, and good governance be restored to this treasured community asset.
The Judge’s Order was filed on April 19, 2021, and questions or requests for additional information should be directed to The Law Office of James P. Grifo, LLC., (360) 370-5186