Shores councilor facing recall petition

Petition alleges Richard Wills broke duties during recent appoinment process

A petition to recall Ocean Shores City Councilor Richard Wills was filed with the Grays Harbor County Superior Court March 18, alleging he violated an oath of office and the city’s ethics code when he interfered with the selection process of a vacant city council seat last month.

A hearing date for the recall case will be held at the Grays Harbor County Courthouse in Montesano at 1:30 p.m. on March 29, when Jennifer Herboldsheimer, who filed the petition, will present recall evidence to Judge Katherine Svoboda.

Herboldsheimer delivered a statement of charges against Wills on March 5 to the Grays Harbor County Auditor. A day later the charges were passed to the prosecuting attorney’s office, which prepared a proposed ballot synopsis that would appear before Ocean Shores voters in November should the court find the charges “legally and factually sufficient.”

If that happens, Herboldsheimer will have to collect signatures from more than 1,200 registered voters in Ocean Shores — 35% of the total number of votes cast in the last election for the office.

After being appointed to Position 6 in October 2022, Wills narrowly defended the seat in November 2023, defeating P.J. Faria by a single vote, 1,740 to 1,739.

He declined to comment on the petition when contacted by The Daily World on Wednesday.

Any voter may initiate a recall through the auditor’s office against an elected city councilmember.

Herboldsheimer, who came up short in her bid for Position 4 on the city council last year, clarified that the effort to recall Wills isn’t personal.

“This isn’t about any sour grapes or sore loser kind of situation,” Herboldsheimer said in an interview on Wednesday. “This, for me, is about holding those elected accountable for their actions. He did the wrong thing, and there have to be consequences.”

The grounds for the recall stem from Wills’ actions in January, when the city was fielding applications to fill the vacant seat left open by the resignation of former Mayor Pro Tem Eric Noble.

In a phone call, Wills told Ryan Griffiths, who had applied for a vacant seat, that another applicant, Denise Siers, was “beloved” and “Obama-like,” and would likely have the support of the majority of city council members during the appointment process. He also referred to Griffiths’ queer identity as a “lifestyle.”

Griffiths then withdrew his application for the seat. He told The Daily World last month he was already considering withdrawing his application due to Siers’ candidacy, and reached out for advice from Wills, who had encouraged Griffiths in previous conversations to seek a council seat.

Wills admitted to the interaction, but said it was “never my intention to demean or slight” Griffiths.

After Griffiths detailed the incident in an email and during a city council meeting, the council agreed to recuse Wills from the vacancy appointment process on Feb. 13, stating that the actions were a “direct violation” of the city’s ethics code and had “severely compromised” the appointment process by making it appear the council had already made up its mind.

Herboldsheimer included that statement with her recall petition, as well as Griffiths’ Jan. 23 email to the council, Wills’ oath of office and the Ocean Shores City Council guidelines, which were updated in November 2023.

According to the prosecutor’s proposed ballot synopsis, the recall includes two charges.

The first is that Wills interfered with the process for filling a vacant city council position under state law and/or violated the city’s code of ethics by advising that Griffiths withdraw his candidacy and by suggesting that another candidate was favored.

The second argues that Wills “acted inappropriately by referring to the candidate’s queer identity as a ‘lifestyle.’”

In her petition, Herboldsheimer argues the behavior “constitutes an act of misfeasance, which (state law) describes as ‘the performance of a duty in an improper manner,’ and may even be malfeasance, which the same chapter describes as “the commission of an unlawful act.”

Misfeasance, malfeasance, or the violation of an oath of office are the thresholds that recall charges must meet to be found legally sufficient by a judge.

The judge will also make a decision about factual sufficiency — whether or not the evidence provided by Herboldsheimer is enough to substantiate the charges.

Herboldsheimer said she will be representing herself at the hearing on March 29.

“I think the case that we have is a very strong case, especially since he has admitted that he did do the wrong thing,” she said. “I think that the judge will see that the case is quite clear.”

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or

The Daily World file photo
Jennifer Herboldsheimer filed the petition to recall Richard Wills from Position 6 on the Ocean Shores City Council, alleging his failure to uphold duties during a city council vacancy appointment constitutes misfeasance.

The Daily World file photo Jennifer Herboldsheimer filed the petition to recall Richard Wills from Position 6 on the Ocean Shores City Council, alleging his failure to uphold duties during a city council vacancy appointment constitutes misfeasance.