Port pressure prompts City of SeaTac to drop surface water lawsuit

By Jack Mayne

The SeaTac City Council complied with a request from the Port of Seattle and dropped its controversial lawsuit over surface water management fees the city collects from the Port.

The city sought judicial clarification regarding its authority to continue collecting surface water management fees from the Port of Seattle.

Executive decision
Nothing concerning the lawsuit was on the agenda but, at the very end of the SeaTac City Council meeting Tuesday night, the Council went into a 44-minute private executive session.

Then, Councilmember Peter Kwon moved to “dismiss without prejudice” its lawsuit against the Port of Seattle so the two sides can “resolve their differences in the lawsuit by agreement” as long as the city manager and attorney agree that the dismissal won’t be construed to prevent the city reinitiate the lawsuit later.

The dismissal request passed four votes to two with Councilmember Erin Sitterley not voting. The votes against the motion to drop the suit were from Mayor Michael Siefkes and Councilmember Rick Forschler.

Siefkes said that if the negotiations do not go satisfactorily, the suit could be refiled.

The city lawsuit was over the Port’s payment of surface water management fees to the city, said Kwon. The city operates systems to dispose of the millions of gallons of rainwater from the airport’s entire facility.

“The Port has asked the city to dismiss this lawsuit while the city and the port attempt to resolve their differences by agreement,” said Kwon. “In the spirit of cooperation, this motion does that.”

Councilmember Pam Fernald said she would agree the suit be dropped “because I was there when the Port demanded that we drop the lawsuit or they wouldn’t come back to the table. So we want to work in good faith so we are trying to get there.”

City Manager Joe Scorcio said “the City Council’s decision will enable the parties to continue negotiating a mutually acceptable resolution prior to the February, 2018 expiration of the current Interlocal Agreement.”

Extending Redflex
The Council, amidst some concerns from the mayor, extended on a 4 to 3 vote the Redflex red light camera contract to the end of the year. Opposed were Siefkes and Councilmembers Sitterley and Forschler.

Earlier, resident Vicki Lockwood pushed for extending the contract.

She said comments about the vendor that provides red light cameras at two International Boulevard locations had gotten into trouble because its top officers gave payoffs to some city officials elsewhere. The Council asked staff to work out an extension of the Redflex contract so that other red light camera vendors could be researched.

“There has been a lot of trash about Reflex’s ethics.” Lockwood said. “They got charged with greasing the palm of councilmembers in various cities to either renew their contract or to institute a new contract.

“Now, Councilmembers, if you haven’t had your palms greased by Redflex, none of their behavior has been a problem.”

Basically, she said, if SeaTac Councilmembers haven’t been bribed, there is nothing to concern themselves with.

“I would like to maintain the continuity of the red light cameras.”

As he has before the mayor was adamant in opposition.

“It’s a horrible idea, bad company,” said the mayor. “The people in this city deserve much, much better. Redflex is more than just bribery issues.”

Former mayor and Councilmember Tony Anderson agreed Redflex was a bad company but he said it was better to have them for a few months while the city finds a new red light camera provider.

In other news, Guatemala is opening a consulate in SeaTac, said Scorcio, who added there may be other such moves from others countries.


6 Responses to “Port pressure prompts City of SeaTac to drop surface water lawsuit”
  1. Earl Gipson says:

    And the City caves to the port’s bully tactics (again). Even after the port has ripped us off for $24million in parking taxes. Just great.

  2. Joel Wachtel says:

    I agree with Earl! The Port is and will always be a bully. The issue at hand is a couple of million dollars in dispute over stormwater management fees. this is an old discussion with the Port and they knew this was an option and the city had even informed them they were going to exercise it. Basically we point to one law and say they owe it and they point to a different law and say we don’t, so the court matter is a request for clarification, which law actually prevails, not a true lawsuit. It’s a 50-50 crapshoot and the Port obviously doesn’t feel lucky! So they resort to their favorite tactic, bullying. No surprise here.

    The surprise is the unrealistic amount of goodwill extended by council member Fernald and and city manager Scorcio when they have a winning hand. The Port wants something very badly from the city in the next ILA, a present from a council long past to the Port, self permitting and if the ILA negotiations don’t go well for the Port and the Ila expires, so does self permitting. “Poof and it’s gone”! To play this “walk away card” a mere 8 months before the ILA expires shows serious desperation to try and take control. I my opinion they are bluffing and I would have let them walk away and have continued the legal action. Then we would have gotten our couple of million and the Port would have understood we really mean business!

    Of yes, lame duck council member Anderson should have recused himself from this vote since worked from the Port and collects a pension from them. But that discussion sailed off into the sunset years ago, But residents are so used to these types of things its hard to get mad anymore.

    However, City Manager Scorcio is unquestionably the most capable person in the city to handle these negotiations, so while I have an opinion I will give him the benefit of a doubt, this time.

    • Pam Fernald says:

      Joel, bless your heart, you wrote:

      “The surprise is the unrealistic amount of goodwill extended by council member Fernald and city manager Scorcio…”

      Here is what I’d like you to know: What’s surprising to me is that you don’t even know how much you don’t know…

      But, that shouldn’t keep anyone from exercising their freedom of speech.

      • Joel Wachtel says:


        I have never implied I know everything and admit I’m still learning more about this situation. My question is why doesn’t someone, anyone in the know, tell the public the truth of the matter. We start a lawsuit, get threatened and stop a lawsuit! No discussion of settlemnt of the underlying issue and no reason why the trigger was pulled in the first place. Evidently this issue has not been part of the ILA negotiations since we started a “friendly” lawsuit.

        You’re damn straight, there a lot I don’t know! But then I’m not done digging into this either!

        • Pam Fernald says:

          You might also want to ‘dig in’ and learn about exec. sessions. No council member should be answering anyone’s questions about what went on during the exec session before the lawsuit vote.

          But, I’d be happy to discuss the RCW on exec sessions with you, if you would like. Let me know.

  3. Vicki Lockwood says:

    I am pleased that our Council is giving the new players at the Port of Seattle an opportunity to tell us what they’ve got to offer to resolve the situation between our citizens and the Port. I don’t believe that our listening is equivalent to our caving. We have given up nothing by agreeing to listen.

    As for the Redflex company, I stand by my statement that their legal and public image problems have not been about the accuracy of the service they provide to us. They did some unethical things in their sales tactics and those responsible are serving their sentences. There was an issue in Arizona where Redflex was being reimbursed on a per violation schedule – this is not the case in SeaTac … we pay a flat rate each month and that fee has nothing to do with the number of actual tickets issued. With the Arizona situation, the contract was cancelled and Redflex subsequently continued to press for payment from the violators for tickets that were issued before the cancellation. People thought when the contract was cancelled that they would no longer be responsible for the fines they had accrued. There was another issue where Redflex discouraged some cities from lengthening the time that a yellow light stayed lit before turning red. Again, this behavior has nothing to do with SeaTac. I am not condoning Redflex’s business behavior, and I have no problem if our City waves goodbye to Redflex after we get a replacement service up and running.