Thursday, September 01, 2005

It's time to make government officials personally responsible for their actions

In 1997, Armen Yousoufian sued King County when Ron Sims refused to produce the economic-impact studies he had requested under the Public Disclosure Act. Sims had alleged on radio that a taxpayer expenditure on a new Seahawk stadium would result in an economic boon. Yousoufian simply wanted to see the evidence behind that claim and other financial data.

Eight years later, despite winning in King County Superior Court, the Court of Appeals and the Washington State Supreme Court, Yousoufian still doesn’t have the documents! And the awarded $300,000 in penalties against King County barely covers his legal costs.

But what is $300,000 to King County? Between January and July of this year, King County DOT has spent an incredible $202,000 to one private law firm to defend its alleged wrongdoing aimed at helping Weyerhaeuser and Redmond Ridge East. They are also suing the King County Hearing Examiner, and appealing the examiner’s findings of “arbitrary and capricious” acts committed by DOT to help Weyerhaeuser obtain the mandatory concurrency certificates for Redmond Ridge East. The examiner has recommended denial of the project and the rescinding of that dubious certificate.

The taxpayer costs to hire just this one private firm to defend DOT and sue another county agency will probably eclipse Yousoufian’s award soon. Click here for the invoice

Notice the attorney in the invoice labelled "KEM". This single attorney has billed King County nearly $155,000 for 6 months of work, at a rate of nearly $212 per hour. Doesn't anyone else find this outrageous? DOT's payments to this one attorney more than doubled the cash settlement with Friends of the Law.

Ron Sims and DOT have absolutely no respect for the taxpayers and we are not only paying to defend their wrongdoing, but the awards to their victims as well.

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