Wednesday, August 10, 2005

So many lawyers, and we're paying for them all

Today I learned that the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has declared that they will defend the hearing examiner from lawsuits filed by Weyerhaeuser and KCDOT challenging his rulings on Redmond Ridge East and the improperly issued traffic concurrency certificate issued in 2002. KCDOT is being represented by private counsel on our dime.

The PA's Office is also still representing DDES in its appeal of the hearing examiner's ruling, putting it on the developer's side too, while KCDOT is also "illegally" appealing the examiner's ruling to deny the concurrency certificate, again with private counsel, and again on our dime. (Only concurrency certificate "approvals" may be appealed to the county council. Denials must be challenged in Superior Court.)

So far this means that the taxpayers are footing the bill for King County DOT's hiring of private counsel in their lawsuit against the examiner and again for their "illegal" concurrency appeal to the King County Council. We're also paying for the PA's Office representation of DDES in their appeal of the examiner's recommendations to deny Redmond Ridge East and to rescind their improperly issued traffic concurrency certificate. And one more time, we're paying for the PA's Office to represent us, in defense of the hearing examiner in the lawsuits brought by Weyerhaeuser and KCDOT, while they represent DDES against the examiner.

Confused yet?

Then today I received this email in response to my request to Amy Calderwood, the King County Ombudsman, for status on my 2 complaints filed July 15 and July 25:

Mr. Costello:

Our Office is looking into both of your complaints. Jon Stier, Assistant Ombudsman, is investigating your complaint related to the traffic counts.

I will be looking into your allegations of conflict of interest on the part of DDES. The Prosecuting Attorney has declared a conflict, and will not be providing me with legal advice on this case. I am in the process of obtaining special counsel. Once I get our special counsel in place, I will be better able to determine what course our review will take.

Please feel free to email Jon directly at with any questions related to the traffic count complaint.

Amy Calderwood
King County Office of Citizen Complaints - Ombudsman
So despite the PA's Office not seeing a conflict of interest in representing DDES against the examiner, on Weyerhaeuser's side, while defending the examiner from lawsuits brought by both DOT and Weyerhaesuser, they can't provide legal counsel to the ombudsman in the investigation of my complaint because of an admitted conflict of interest. At least they can see a conflict some of the time.

Now the ombudsman gets to hire even more lawyers to investigate whether DOT, DDES and the PA's Office all have conflicts of interest in performing the technical reviews on applications that will generate revenue to their departments, and also in suing the examiner to preserve revenues gained from the improperly issued traffic concurrency certificates for Redmond Ridge East. Whew! Even I'm getting confused now.

Just a reminder... King County obtained over $1.2 million in permit fees from just over 600 permits issued to Redmond Ridge and Trilogy in the 15 months since they stopped counting cars on Novelty Hill Road, and therefore failed to enforce the permit condition that would have required halting of permits over a year ago.

Now add all those lawyer costs and that $1.2 million doesn't look like the windfall it did a couple months ago, huh?

What a mess!

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