FAQs Concerning Lawsuit

What is the Senior Services Council of San Juan County? 

The Senior Services Council of San Juan County (“Senior Council”) is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation formed in 1976 with a mission to assist senior citizens of age sixty and over and disabled persons of San Juan County. Its principal office is in Friday Harbor, Washington. It is not part of San Juan County government. 

How is the Orcas Senior Center related to the Senior Council? 

The Senior Council is organized into three geographic districts: The Orcas District, the San Juan (Island) District, and the Lopez District. A senior center located in each district is managed by an operational committee for that district. The Orcas Senior Center (OSC) is therefore managed by the Orcas District Committee (ODC). Thus, the ODC is a committee of the Senior Council. 

What is the lawsuit about? 

In August 2019, the bylaws for the Senior Council were updated to bring them into compliance with changes in Washington State law that had occurred since the bylaws’ previous update. The plaintiffs challenged some aspects of how the bylaws were changed (specifically, whether or not the changes made were in accordance with the statutes of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 24.03.) They also challenged a recall petition having to do with the San Juan (Island) Committee. This recall petition applied just to the San Juan (Island) District; it did not apply to either the Orcas or the Lopez Districts. 

What was the outcome of the lawsuit? 

The outcome of the lawsuit, issued by the Whatcom County Superior Court on April 16, 2021, found that amendments to the bylaws did not violate RCW 24.03; and that the defendant did not improperly or unlawfully refused to honor a recall petition. However, the court also found that the 2019 amendments to the bylaws did not comply with the requirement that notice be provided at least ten days before the date of the meeting, that the 2019 bylaws were therefore ineffective and void, and that the previously existing bylaws shall be in full force and effect. 

 What does this have to do with ODC elections? 

The Senior Council bylaws in effect prior to 2019 required a different election process than those described in the 2019 amendment. When the new bylaws were voted and approved by the Senior Council in August 2019, the Orcas District Committee immediately brought its local operating rules into compliance with the new bylaws. At the time, we were unaware that a lawsuit was being developed by San Juan Island-based plaintiffs. The lawsuit was filed on December 31, 2019, by which time we had already modified our operating rules. The court order now requires that we revert back to the local operating rules that were in effect in each of the three districts prior to 2019. In the case of the Orcas District, this means that we must revert back to our 2014 operating rules. Any ODC member who joined after August 2019 must therefore be (re-)elected according to the procedure outlined in the 2014 operating rules. The election procedures may differ island-by-island, as each district will be using its own local operating rules.  

Was my donation to the Orcas Senior Center used to pay legal fees? 

No donations, no grant funds, nor any other funds received by the Orcas Senior Center (or the Lopez Island Senior Center at Woodmen Hall) have been used for the payment of legal fees associated with this lawsuit. All of the legal fees have been paid by the Mullis Community Senior Center in Friday Harbor (San Juan District), or by the insurance company of the Senior Council.  

What does this mean for Orcas Senior Center members? 

OSC members will be invited to vote this summer on ODC members who joined after August 2019. Other than that, we do not anticipate any effect on the services being provided by the Orcas Senior Center. We are committed to continuing to provide uninterrupted services in all the areas you have depended on and enjoyed during the months leading up to this time: Meals on Wheels deliveries, Buddy Check-In, Foot Care, and many Zoom lectures, classes, and programs. We are deeply grateful for the support that you have already given us during the past year and intend to continue to provide a high level of support to the community for many years to come. 

Further Questions 

Additional information and/or FAQs will be added to this website as we near the time of the elections. If you have other questions, please contact Lena@orcasseniors.org.