Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

County must pay $300,000 in dispute over public records

Armen Yousoufian still isn't happy. The former landlord to the Libertarian Party of Washington sued King County 7 years ago over its failure to disclose economic impact statements related to the then proposed Seahawks Stadium.

This past week a King County judge ruled County must pay $300,000, partly as a statutory penalty for delaying in production of the statements and partly for Yousoufian's attorney fees. But according to Yousoufian the judgment will not have the deterent effect against future disclosures that the penalty provisions were designed to create.

At issue is the application of the public records penalty statute, which provides that an agency can be fined between $5 and $100 per day for failure to produce properly requested information. In 2001 a judge imposed a $5 per day fine on the county and Yousoufian appealed. The Supreme Court said that was too low and sent it back to the trial court for a reevaluation of the penalty award. The most recent judgment is based on a $15 per day fine.

I have litigated this provision in the past and I have never seen a court award a $100 per day fine. In Yousoufian's case the court specifically held the King County officials were not liable for misconduct, merely incompetence. So, the question is what the penalty is for incompetence. I have to agree with Yousoufian. $15 per day is too low.


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