News

Election sends fire board into legal limbo

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

Voters in the Nov. 6 general election threw the District 22 fire board a big, fat curveball in the Commission No. 1 race.

The expectation by the East Pierce Fire and Rescue board members was Raymond R. Bunk III would win the general election. He was running against incumbent Roger E. Coleman, who resigned Oct. 8 following his guilty plea to misdemeanor drug charges in King County Superior Court.

However the elections results didn't quite jibe with expectations.

When the first results came in election night, the 54-year-old Coleman was ahead by a healthy margin, and Monday morning's results had Bunk losing with 2,788 votes, about 42 percent and Coleman leading with 3,752, 57 percent.

The 35-year-old Bunk said the results came as a “pretty big surprise. But I've licked my wounds and we have work to do on the board.”

The District 22 board appointed Bunk to complete Coleman's term after the latter resigned.

Although Coleman resigned and informed the Pierce County auditor he wanted to withdraw from the race, he did not act in time to have his name removed from the ballot, and voters decided to send Coleman back, despite his resignation.

“The fire district will have to decide what to do,” Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy said. “In the eyes of the process, Coleman probably will prevail and he appears to have won. He couldn't withdraw from the race because it was too late. In our eyes he was still a candidate.”

Bunk finished on top in the Aug. 21 primary with 1,362 votes, about 32 percent, among the four candidates vying for the position. Coleman came in second with 1,291 votes, about 30 percent.

If Coleman is declared the winner in the general election, the board will have to make a decision, based on legal advice, whether there needs to be another election scheduled, or if Bunk serves out Coleman's entire six-year term. Bunk will serve his appointed term to the end of the year, according to East Pierce officials.

There is also the sticky problem of whether Coleman needs to resign again from the board position he appears to have won.

Coleman could not be reached for comment by press deadline.

Dick Willner endorsed Bunk after losing to him in the Aug. 21 primary. Willner had been a member of the District 12 board for three years before it merged with District 22.

“I though Ray was the best one,” Willner said. “I went out to breakfast with him after the primary and I asked him questions. He answered every question straightforward. I told him I was going to support him after that breakfast. Hopefully we can reappoint him.”

Bunk said he hopes the problems surrounding the election works out for the best.

“I love to do work for my community,” Bunk said. “Who knows where this takes me from here?”

District 22 includes Bonney Lake, Lake Tapps, areas around Buckley, but not the city of Buckley and areas around Carbonado. Sumner, South Prairie and Wilkeson are part of the district by contract.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com or 360-802-8209.

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