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Tiny town of Pacific back in the news spotlight with mayoral recall

City of Pacific
Pacific Mayor Cy Sun, left, is seen signing his oath of office with Pacific City Clerk Jane Montgomery.

Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday in the recall election of Mayor Cy Sun in the tiny town of Pacific. It’s a story that almost sounds like a sitcom about small-town politics gone awry. 

Pacific is a town of about 6,800 people straddling the border of King and Pierce counties. It was incorporated more than a century ago. Sun is a Korean War veteran in his 80s who took office a year and a half ago. He ran as a write-in candidate, pledging to root out corruption.

But his opponents say he’s acted like a despot, pushing out department heads. And they say he tried to use the police force for a personal investigation in Oregon.

He’s been in the news constantly, even nationally. At one point, he was arrested by his own police force for trying to enter a city office. The city attorney had barred him from the office because Sun had destroyed some documents there. 

Don Thomson is a retired mechanic who has led the recall effort.

"Nobody likes being on national news," he said. "Right now, we’re the laughingstock of the nation."

Thomson says the mayor jeopardized the city’s insurance with all the unfilled positions. And Thomson says that could have serious consequences for residents because the city might have to disincorporate.

"If the city does not have insurance, our homeowners' insurance is in jeopardy," Thomson said. "Each individual's homeowner insurance is in jeopardy because now you don't have the police department. You don't have the protection."

Late last year, Pacific was forced to buy a more expensive insurance policy with less coverage. 

Sun didn’t respond to requests for comment. But he says in the recall ballot that he’s fighting entrenched corruption, including trying to figure out if police resources have been misused.

More than a thousand ballots have been returned to the King County Elections Department so far. That’s more than twice the number of votes Sun got when he was first elected.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.