The City of Pacific will pay $10,000 to settle a lawsuit brought against the City by the notorious open government activist Arthur West.
The Pacific City Council discussed then decided to head off potential litigation by settling with West for $10,000, Mayor Leanne Guier said. The decision came in a special meeting executive session following Monday’s workshop.
West was suing the City for not responding promptly to his public records request regarding medical and recreational marijuana businesses in Pacific.
“Unfortunately, when he made the request, we responded and said he would get the information 30 days later,” Guier said. “But then it kind of fell off the table. He came back at us six months later with a lawsuit that could have cost the City a whole lot more.”
West’s initial request was for any information connected to Pacific’s adoption of a moratorium against marijuana, including any ordinances.
He also asked for any study or reviews the City may have conducted relating to the impacts of marijuana businesses in the city and any communications between the mayor and City Council members regarding marijuana businesses.
The request sought copies of the City’s insurance, bond and city attorney-related contracts and any communications between the Association of Washington Cities (AWC), Washington Cities Insurance Authority and City Attorney Carol Morris.
According to West, the “City appears to have deliberately dragged its feet for over eight months and withheld records that could have been useful in understanding the roles of cities and the AWC.”
West previously collected $187,000 from the Port of Olympia to settle a lawsuit over open meetings violations. He also settled with the Washington State Liquor Control Board for $192,000 in a case that alleged the board had violated state open meetings law during rule-making for recreational marijuana sales in the state.
“It was on our watch, so it’s up to the City to take care of it,” Guier said. “I feel like the City, by taking care of this, getting on this early, saved us thousand of dollars.”
Pacific is in the process of shutting down four medical marijuana dispensaries operating in city limits, Guier said.
The state Legislature this session rolled the sale of medical marijuana in with the sales of recreational marijuana, closing hundreds of tax-free medical dispensaries. The state charges a 37-percent excise tax on the sale of pot.
According to Guier, letters advising medical marijuana shops in the city to close have already been mailed.