Tag Archives: lawsuits

Paulson lawsuit moves to March 24 hearing

By Ethan Fowler
Special to the Kitsap Sun
PORT ORCHARD — Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton denied a motion to dismiss a Public Records Act complaint Friday and forced a hearing to determine whether the act was violated for 9 a.m. March 24.
The Public Records Act (PRA) complaint by plaintiffs Althea Paulson, a political blogger for her website Bainbridge Notebook, and Bob Fortner, a self-described community watchdog, alleges two current Council members, Steve Bonkowski and David Ward, along with former Council member Debbie Lester, used personal email accounts to conduct city business last year about the water utility.
In January, Lester was dropped from the amended complaint.
“I made (Judge Dalton) an argument that she hadn’t even thought about,” said Dan Mallove, attorney for the plaintiffs and Paulson’s husband, after 31-minute hearing. “The essence of the argument was when the council members refused to allow inspection of the hard drives of their personal computers, they were placing their own individual interests ahead of the community because they’re exposing the city to liability if there are responsive public documents on their computers and they’re not produced. And that’s a violation of the PRA.
“If they are placing their own individual interest ahead of the city and they’re wrong, then they should be personally liable for that, not the city.”
As she was leaving the courthouse following the hearing, attorney Jessica Goldman, who represents Ward and Bonkowski, said the March 24 hearing was “unwarranted.” According to her motion to dismiss filing, Goldman said the city did “conduct an adequate search and provided reasonably timely access to the requested public records.”
Mallove said Lester produced more than 100 documents, and Ward and Bonkowski fewer than 10 documents. In phone interviews Monday, Bonkowski confirmed Mallove’s document figure, but Ward said he had submitted “substantially more than 10 documents.”
“They were party to scores of these emails that Lester produced,” Mallove said. “We’re looking for the complete thread of the conversation and how do we know what’s not being produced. The public is at a disadvantage because we don’t know what’s out there.”
Dalton told both sides in the case that she thought the March 24 hearing could require a half day in court.

Live Blog: Ostling vs. Bainbridge Island, May 24

CASE BACKGROUND: The plaintiff Ostling family is expected to wrap up its case this week. They’re suing the city of Bainbridge Island for alleged civil rights violations against Douglas Ostling, the night the 43-year-old was shot and killed by police.

Reporter Tristan Baurick is at court live blogging the proceedings today.

Appeal in store for Anderson vs. BIPD case

Last week, a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by former Bainbridge police officer Scott Anderson his wife, Cynthia Anderson, against the Bainbridge police department.

The lawsuit involves a domestic dispute at the officer’s home in which the Cynthia Anderson allegedly threatened to harm herself. The Andersons are sued, saying Cynthia Anderson’s arrest was unjustified and that police involvement in their affairs damaged their relationship and led to Scott Anderson’s resignation from the department.

You can read the story here.

I wasn’t able to reach the Andersons’ lawyers before deadline on Friday, but Cynthia Anderson’s lawyer, John Muenster, got back to me today.

He said emphatically that there would be an appeal of the judge’s decision.

“Yes, we’re definitely going to appeal,” Muenster said, adding that he and his client want a jury trial. “This is a clear case of a violation of constitutional rights.”

In his dismissal, the judge wrote that Bainbridge police had probable cause to arrest Cynthia Anderson. He also wrote that there is no evidence police were intentionally trying to undermine the Andersons’ relationship.

City dumps its attorney to save on legal expenses

In a surprise move, the city cut its staff attorney position to reduce its legal expenses.

The job was created in 2005 to save the city money, tackle internal legal issues and stem the growing number of lawsuits against the city.

The city’s legal woes don’t seem to have abated much (see Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance lawsuit), but the city has a perhaps bigger challenge: sharply declining revenues and a nearly empty bank account.

Read my story HERE.

Bainbridge Island Land Trust sues landowner over new driveway

Head over HERE to read my story about the Bainbridge Island Land Trust‘s legal battle with a North Madison Avenue landowner.

BILT contends that Joseph Lachac broke a conservation easement agreement by clearing plants and at least one tree to make way for a rerouted section of his driveway. Lachac says he has the right to improve his driveway, and stresses that he has replanted the abandoned section with native plants.

Ratepayers alliance refiles lawsuit against city

Here’s my story on the latest in the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance v. City of Bainbridge Island saga:

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — The Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance has sent a reminder to the city that their legal fight isn’t over.

Late last week, the alliance re-filed the lawsuit it initially brought against the city in April 2009.

The lawsuit reasserts the alliance’s claim that the city misappropriated utility funds, alliance member Dick Allen said.

The lawsuit’s key assertion — that the city cannot pursue bond funding to upgrade the Winslow sewer plant — was thrown out by a Kitsap County judge in September.

The alliance appealed, but later agreed to put aside certain objections that were preventing the city from obtaining the bond. The agreement also halted a planned sewer rate surcharge aimed at covering the blocked funding.

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Former Bainbridge police officer and his wife sue city

A former Bainbridge police officer is suing the city over how the Bainbridge Island Police Department handled a domestic dispute at his home and the subsequent investigation into his and his wife’s actions.

The officer, who resigned in 2008, is asking for $1 million in damages. His wife is also suing for unlawful arrest and other claims. One of their sons recently filed a third claim against the city alleging that police used excessive force when arresting him during a 2007 traffic stop.

Read the full story here.

Lawsuit could force city to triple sewer rates

The city is drafting an ordinance that would allow it to double or possibly triple Winslow sewer rates to fill a funding gap for the nearly-completed sewer plant upgrade.

A lawsuit and recent appeal from the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance has effectively blocked the city’s ability obtain the bond-funded portion of the project.

“The lawsuit appeal needlessly risks a financial crisis for the city and its sewer ratepayers,” City Councilman Barry Peters said.

Alliance members say the emergency rate hike would be unfair to sewer customers.

“To threaten them because we’re seeking justice and due democratic process is astounding,” said alliance member Sally Adams.

Read the full story here.

City agrees to pay $495,000 to homebuilders group

The city on Wednesday night agreed to pay a $495,000 settlement to a homebuilders group contesting a fee that supported the city’s affordable housing efforts.

The City Council unanimously approved the settlement, capping an eight-year legal battle with the Homebuilders Association of Kitsap County and three Bainbridge development companies.

“I’m very pleased we can settle this matter,” Councilman Barry Peters said. “But the key issue is: it’s a lot money.”

The settlement will take a sizable chunk of a $1.8 million reserve the cash-strapped city is trying to build by the end of the year.

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Lawsuit spurs city to borrow from itself to keep sewer project moving

With the bond-funded portion of Winlsow’s new sewer plant under litigation, the City Council on Wednesday narrowly approved a plan for the city to loan itself enough money to keep the project moving.

The council’s four-to-three vote allows the city sewer fund to borrow up to $3 million from the water fund.

The city plans to pay back the water fund by May 2010 or after having reached an agreement with the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance, a citizen group that sued the city over its plan to use $6 million in bonds to pay for part of the $14.4 million sewer plant.

The alliance contends that an expected utility rate increase to pay for the plant constitutes an “illegal tax” because it may be used for unrelated capital projects, including the Winslow Way utilities upgrade. The lawsuit also asserts that the city’s bond-funding plan is inflated beyond the actual costs of the sewer project.

“Making a loan like this is not part of our financial plan. We’re here because we have to be,” Councilman Barry Peters said, noting the lawsuit’s impact on the project’s funding.

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Group threatens to sue city over sewer plant funding

An attorney hired by a group calling itself the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance sent a letter to the city today warning of “appropriate legal recourse” if the city approves bonds for a new Winslow sewer treatment plant.

The $15.5 million plant is drawing most of its funding from bonds and a trust fund loan covered by Winslow utility ratepayers.

Attorney Richard Stephens charges that the city failed to fully disclose its “dire financial situation.” Poor financial footing, according to Stephens, could dampen the city’s reputation, leading to higher interest rates, more stringent loan conditions and higher bills for ratepayers.

Stephens also asserts bond funding for the plant would violate city rules restricting capital facilities financing and that ratepayers were denied proper due process in the plant’s planning.

The letter was sent to the city hours before the City Council was scheduled to vote on approving the bond.

The council is slated to vote on the bond at 8 p.m. tonight.

No more docks on Blakely Harbor

The long legal battle over Blakely Harbor has apparently come to an end.

The Washington State Court of Appeals upheld the city’s ban on new individual-use docks on the south island harbor, Christopher Dunagan reported this week.

The only docks permitted in the future will be two joint-use docks and one community dock.

A lawsuit filed by two south island families argued that that dock prohibition robs of their rightful use of the harbor “under the guise of protecting the aquatic environment.”

Blakely is considered one of Puget Sound’s most pristine harbors and is important habitat for marine species.

For more information, click here.