Two King County DOT whistle blowers have won their Federal Lawsuit this week against several of King County Executive Ron Sims' managers in DOT. They were accused of retaliating against them, because they attempted to expose corruption and wrongdoing in DOT 7 years ago.
In 2002, King County DOT was requested to grant a Transportation Concurrency Certificate to Quadrant Homes for a development named Redmond Ridge East. This came after years of investigation into wrongdoing by DOT under Ron Sims for other development projects named Redmond Ridge and Trilogy. With no vehicle capacity left on area roads, primarily Novelty Hill Road, that certificate was initially denied. But just weeks later, without any explanation or justification, KCDOT reversed their decision and invented road capacity out of thin air for Quadrant.
After that decision, five King County DOT employees, including the supervisor of the TFDM group, which was responsible for building the county's road traffic model, said no way. They went through their management, then through the Ombudsman, and even to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office alleging wrongdoing, including illegal acts being committed in KCDOT's Concurrency Group to assist Quadrant in obtaining a certificate wrongfully.
Not long afterward the alleged retaliation began by DOT Director Linda Dougherty and manager Jennifer Lindwall. First poor performance reviews, then threats of layoff, and finally, demotion for the supervisor and significant reduction in pay.
The development would eventually receive a recommendation to deny from King County Hearing Examiner Stafford Smith, and a recommendation to rescind the ill-gotten Transportation Concurrency Certificate. Remarkably, the King County Council approved Redmond Ridge East in 2005 anyway.
Now 4 years later and hundreds of thousands of dollars in the plaintiff's legal fees, a jury has determined that the defendants Linda Dougherty and Jennifer Lindwall did retaliate against Ho-Chuan Chen and Hossein Barahimi.
The awards in the case are trivial. Perhaps because US District Court Judge Marcia Pechman ruled against allowing any issues related to the Redmond Ridge East corruption to be heard by the jury. Remarkably, Pechman, then a King County Superior Court judge, ruled on the very first challenge to Redmond Ridge and Trilogy, ruling with the county and developer in a case that would eventually take years to be overturned by the State Supreme Court, only to have the Supreme Court unanimously rule in 2005 to allow an ancient illegal act by the county in 1989, that the courts refused to address, finally excuse a decade of county wrongdoing under Executive Gary Locke and Executive Ron Sims.
Will Douherty, Lindwall and Sue Osterhoubt (also sued by Barahimi in 2007 and found guilty of retaliation) be fired for misusing their office and punishing employees for attempting to expose corruption and wrongdoing in DOT? Not likely. This is the way King County has operated under Ron Sims, and I'm sure their guilt will be ignored by Sims for what turned out to be "his" greater good.
Will Ho-Chuan Chen be restored to the position he previously held so that he can return to the road modeling group to be a much-needed watchdog of the shenanigans that go on regularly in KCDOT, since NO ONE has been there to stop the county's endless efforts to assist developers in avoiding road impact fees and other mitigation?
Will anyone now demand that these individuals, along with their boss Executive Ron Sims, be required to reimburse King County the millions of dollars spent on their defense funded by King County taxpayers, as well as the damages to be paid to Chen and Barahimi, including all of the plaintiff's legal costs?
This lawsuit closes the chapter on this sickening corruption that has left taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded infrastructure. And with a media that has all but ignored it, and citizen opponents who have surrendered to the corruption in this county, Ron Sims can now be congratulated on his promotion to the Obama administration where he can take this stench with him.
Finally, I'd like to personally thank Ho-Chuan Chen and Hossein Barahimi for doing the right thing. Their integrity and honesty will never be rewarded as it should, but they can stand up with pride and know that while they may be surrounded by corrupt individuals in their employment, that they have the respect of the few of us out here that understand the courage it took for them to stand up to Ron Sims and his puppets in King County leadership.
Here's more background from the PI:
Redmond Ridge East hits roadblock over 'tainted' traffic study
And here is Dori Monson's interview on 4/13 with Chen and Barahimi (Starts at 5 minutes):