Citizen tells Council to fire some staffers or quit because of $18 million judgment

By Jack Mayne

A citizen has told the SeaTac City Council that anyone in city government who had anything to do with issues that led to a civil land use lawsuit that could cost taxpayers over $18 million should immediately be fired.

If Councilmembers cannot do that because of “personal allegiances,” they should resign from office.

The court case is certain to be appealed by the city, so any judgments will not be owing until a final appeals court ruling is made, perhaps in a year or more.

The Council also began consideration on allowing power boat races on Angle Lake.

Staff acted ‘improperly’
At the Tuesday night City Council meeting, resident Joel Wachtel said he was outraged that the city might have to pay $18.3 million dollars for a lawsuit the city was assessed in a judgment favoring K&S Corp., and owner Gerry Kingen.

A King County jury found the city improperly blocked K&S from developing a park and fly facility near the Tukwila Sound Transit station and ruled that $9.5 million was owed to the company owned by Gerry Kingen and his wife (read our previous coverage here). The money was for economic damages due to the city’s stalling, as well as other tactics in not allowing development of property near the Tukwila Sound Transit station.

Then another approximately $9 million was assessed July 8 by King County Superior Court Judge Richard McDermott in a decision on an additional matter that the jury did not consider during the initial trial.

‘A lot of money’
Of the total court decision, Wachtel said, “That’s a lot of money.”

He told the Council Tuesday night, (July 12) that Judge McDermott verbally told the court on July 8 that the “city attorney’s office participated in this profound and unacceptable pattern of deception … that violates the rules of professional conduct that is totally and completely unacceptable to this court. I have never filed a complaint against a lawyer, but I would seriously recommend you take advantage to do that, counsel, because that cannot be allowed to exist.”

Wachtel said “one must wonder where we go from here?” adding it was clear that there was a culture in the city that let it make rules without merit.

He again quoted from the judge’s ruling that “staff not only broke its promises to K&S, it actually undermined and circumvented K&S’s attempt to get its park and fly (facility) approved, but the staff also failed to disclose its true intentions. Staff’s broken promises, bad faith and ulterior motives resulted in the Council not approving the proposed park and fly DA (development agreement) and insisting on different use of the staff delays also caused K&S to suffer economic damage including the eventual loss of the property.”

Wachtel said that it was reported in a conservative Thurston County website, “We The Governed,” that Councilmember Tony Anderson was paid to attend the entire trial. The website said that when Anderson was called to the stand and asked if the city did anything wrong, Anderson “paused for a long while and finally said, ‘No.’”

“Obviously,” said Wachtel, “the judge and Councilmember Anderson disagree. I wonder why?”

He said the Council can’t “sit idle in the face of overwhelming condemnation” of past administrations.

“To have any semblance of governmental competence, it is imperative that the Council seek to identify all parties who participated in this matter to deprive a citizen and a taxpayer of their property and take action to have them removed from their positions with the city. Only in this way can the City Council attempt to restore some sort of credibility to the city.”

He said many might object to the idea that there was any corruption in the city.

“Clearly they are wrong,” said Wachtel. “It is your responsibility to protect your taxpayers from this type of behavior.

He ended by suggesting members of the Council that, because of “personal allegiance, then maybe you should hand in your resignation.”

There was no comment from the Councilmembers.

Boat races at Angle Lake
Angle Lake resident John Lucas on Tuesday night said he objected to an ordinance that would permit the city parks director to approve events such as the proposed organized boat racing on Angle Lake in September, which he said he objects to “not strongly.” Lucas said a survey was taken only of people who lived on the lakeshore and not those nearby.

Lucas said he thought those who don’t live on the shore are more affected “because they get the noise and not the fun.”

Parks Director Larry Ellis said the ordinance Lucas referred to would authorize him to allow a “limited number of special events on Angle Lake” and permits boat speeds “in excess of five knots per hour.”

Final action on the changes is slated for the next regular Council meeting on July 26.

Ellis said the proposed ordinance amendment included a request for the Kent Regional Fire Authority to use the lake for training, but not during summer months.

Cost to taxpayers
Deputy Mayor Pam Fernald wanted to know how much practice the boats would need on the lake and who would monitor that. She also wanted to know how many of the residents on the lakeshore were supportive of the boat racing and how much insurance did the powerboat group have so that if an accident occurred, the city of SeaTac would not be held financially responsible.

Ellis said that if the races are approved, the city will increase liability insurance to $5 million for the event.

“It is my position that this type of activity is not compatible with Angle Lake, which is a family lake … and not conducive to up to 90 miles per hour, or possibly more, speeds,” Fernald said, adding how many leaky or damaged boats would it take to pollute the lake.

Councilmember Kathryn Campbell said there were many intangibles, including pollution of fish stocks, that are hard to consider and needed to be ascertained.

But Councilmember Rick Forschler said that with over 80 percent of a survey of residents on the lake in approval, he was ready to approved “this one time event.”

Acting City Manager Joe Scorcio said there is “total responsibility” for the applicant to pay all additional costs and for any damage or other problems the race might cause.

“The city would incur zero expense if granted a special use permit,” said Scorcio.

Any cost of additional police or other city services “would be 100 percent on the applicant,” he said, adding the event approval by Ellis would come only after a public notification and a comment period.

Parking outlawed
The Council study session heard a proposed amendment on the city rules on “for-hire” vehicles, including limousines, and would forbid drivers from “stopping, standing, and parking” on “any street or public right-of-way in residentially zoned areas,” except to obey other laws or the actual loading or unloading of passengers.

Assistant City Attorney Julia Yoon said drivers could be fined $250 for each time they violated the law – for example, five illegal stops, five fines of $250 or $1,250. That fine schedule differs from current law, which has a progressive fine schedule, because it is difficult for officers on the street to know if the driver has a previous violation.

Mayor Siefkes asked for an amendment to permit for-hire vehicle owners to park in front of their own residences.

No action was taken and the issue was scheduled for further consideration on July 26.

Ethics code considered
During the study session, councilmembers were told by City Attorney Mary Mirante Bartolo that the proposed ethics code has been changed at the Council’s request to extend to those who leave city service, a change proposed by Councilmember Peter Kwan. Also added to the draft is a requirement that a complaint must be filed less than a year after the alleged violation.

A change requested by Councilmember Rick Forschler was included for the proposed ethics code that no alleged violations can be submitted if they occurred before date the code is passed. Another change is adding a hearing examiner to conduct matters of violation and adds a fine for violations of $1,000, Bartolo said.

In general, the proposal said the code is to stress the city will “uphold, promote and demand the highest standard of ethics from all of its elected officials.”

Mayor Michael Siefkes wanted to know if the new city statute would prohibit a person from having two elected jobs. He was referring to objections prior to the last city election to the face that then-Mayor Mia Gregerson was also an elected member of the Washington Legislature.

Bartolo said it could be added.

Forschler said many states do outlaw a person having two elected jobs and he “wouldn’t object” to having that prohibition in the city ethics code.

An amendment to prohibit two elected jobs will be considered when the Council considers the final approval of the ethics code.


5 Responses to “Citizen tells Council to fire some staffers or quit because of $18 million judgment”
  1. mminnot says:

    Can the SeaTac blog look into the information copied and pasted here, that was a part of the recently released civil land use court decision favoring K&S Corporation please? Here it is:
    “II. FINDINGS OF FACT 22. It was not until the public records disclosures that K&S learned of Mayor Gene Fisher’s motives and his behind the scenes effort to thwart K&S’s project. Mayor Fisher, who lived within three blocks of SeaTac Center, was personally against K&S’s park-and-fly because he wanted high-rise condominiums instead. Mayor Fisher believed condominiums would drive out the Somali refugees that had migrated into “his neighborhood”. In addition to his prejudice against refugees, Mayor Fisher also had a financial motive against K&S’s park-and-fly. He believed condominiums would increase the value of his own property, while a park-and-fly would undermine his ability to sell. Mayor Fisher sold his property to a developer shortly before trial and then refused, despite being properly subpoenaed, to testify at trial. Mr. Fisher communicated his objections and desires to Staff, but not to K&S. The staff acted to protect Mayor Fisher’s interest, even though his interests were contrary to the Staff’s obligations to “fully support” K&S’s Project.”

    Gene Fisher was defeated four years ago by Barry Ladenburg, who was helped in his campaign by many citizens and labor organizations who had grave, severe misgivings about Gene Fisher. Prior to his defeat, former council member Fisher’s allies on the council were Rick Forschler and Pam Fernald, based on voting records and video footage. Both Fisher and Forschler were, and still appear to be, motivated by a predjudice against refugees. Based on the findings above, it appears as if Fisher was also motivated by his hope of personal financial gain.
    I read above in your article that an ethics policy is being considered by the current SeaTac city council and that Councilmember Forschler just recently proposed the following: “A change requested by Councilmember Rick Forschler was included for the proposed ethics code that no alleged violations can be submitted if they occurred before the date the code is passed.” Can the SeaTac Blog look into these tangled connections and determine if Forschler’s proposed language in the ethics code would make it impossible to formally implicate Gene Fisher? Can you help citizens determine if former Mayor Gene Fisher broke the law by directing his staff and making his decisions based on his “hope of personal financial gain”?

  2. Doris Cassan says:

    It appears Mr. Forschler is protecting council members who were members of the council in December, 2009, the date the final dishonest transaction was consummated. Who were they?

    Mayor Ralph Shape
    Deputy Gene Fisher
    Mia Gregreson
    Tony Anderson
    Barry Ladenburg
    Chris Wythe

  3. Michael T Kovacs says:

    Not sure why Mr. Forschler would propose making this apply effectiveley when the code of ethics is implemented. Maybe it shold be made retroactive when we became a city in the 1990’s to punish everyone for past mistakes rather than grant them a free pass.

    These clowns can run again for council and get off with a free pass.

    Mia Gregreson
    Tony Anderson
    Barry Ladenburg
    Chris Wythe

  4. Joel Wachtel says:

    Tony Anderson is currently on the council and should out of conscience resign immediately! There is no way the public can believe that the council members during the period where the city conspired to illegally take the Kingen’s property, did not know of the depth of illegality and conspiracy happening within city hall. Further, the City Attorney had to have knowledge of the council’s actions and appears to have said nothing and did nothing to protect the citizens rights, therefore she should not only resign, but be brought before the Bar Association for either her participation or failure to stop the council’s illegal behavior. Someone in the government must stand up for the taxpayer!

    • Earl Gipson says:

      I have to concur with Mr. Wachtel’s request for Councilmember’s Anderson’s resignation. It is my hope that he leaves quietly without having to itemize ALL the reasons why he should (and we all know I can). I’ll wait and see for now.