Benton County Sheriff recall effort collects enough signatures for ballot

Voters in a county in southeastern Washington will decide whether to remove Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher from office.

A recall petition was certified Thursday by Benton County Auditor Brenda Chilton, The Tri-City Herald reported.

Nearly 14,000 signatures of registered voters were needed and the Auditor’s Office validated 14,215 signatures. The question whether to oust Hatcher from his elected office will be on the Aug. 3 primary election ballot.

Hatcher told the Tri-City Herald that he supports and accepts the will of the people, but does "not accept the pretense from this recall group that it is for accountability." He accused the recall organizers of misleading citizens during the signature-gathering process.

"I have been attacked relentlessly for resisting organized labor’s attempt to take over and control your sheriff’s office," Hatcher said in a written statement. "Nobody deserves to be falsely accused of anything and no person deserves to have horrible and unsubstantiated accusations made against them."

Sgt. Jason Erickson started the effort last summer, accusing his boss of intimidating witnesses and public servants in investigations, retaliating against them, and tampering with and destroying physical evidence.

Erickson is supported by a vast majority of the Benton County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild, along with the Washington State Fraternal Order of Police, which have called for the sheriff to step down.

Hatcher has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and has insisted he will be exonerated of any criminal allegations. He’s currently under investigation by the Washington State Patrol.

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