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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Center for Justice

$400k to settle open records lawsuit

Spokane County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $400,000 settlement in a six-year-old case stemming from an open records request.

The Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County won on appeal before the state Supreme Court last September, setting the stage for Tuesday’s action.

The alliance in 2005 sought public records to learn whether Steve Harris, the son of former Commissioner Phil Harris, was given a job prior to a formal hiring process. The alliance was seeking evidence of nepotism.

Copies of a seating chart had the names of “Ron and Steve” on one cubicle, and the alliance sought corroborating records to identify the two.

The trial court dismissed a subsequent lawsuit in 2008, but the alliance appealed.

The justices ruled the county did an inadequate search and that the county improperly rejected an alliance request to identify “Ron & and Steve.”

The case was sent back to Lincoln County where it was initially filed to determine penalties under the state’s open records act.

County officials later said the seating chart was a reference to another employee named Steve. However, a plaintiff’s attorney said there were two people named Steve on the chart.

The county’s risk manager estimated that penalties and legal costs under the law could have reached $650,000.

An agenda summary said the Supreme Court essentially gave the alliance a “blank check.” The penalties and lawyer fees have accrued over time.

Tim Connor, communications director for the Center for Justice, which represented the alliance, said in a prepared statement that the settlement is reportedly the third-largest involving public records in the U.S. He cited a state assistant attorney general as the source of that information.

Past coverage:

Sept. 30: Records ruling costly for county

Beggs to leave Center for Justice

Breean Beggs, the self-described chief catalyst for the public interest law firm Center for Justice, announced his resignation today citing both fewer financial resources at the firm and aspirations for a future run for public office.

Beggs, 47, quickly said he has no public office in mind, especially the already tenacious beginning to the upcoming August primary for Spokane County prosecutor.

“Most of my life that has been my dream,” Beggs said of seeking public office. “I plan to stay in Spokane, raise my kids a little older and look for the right office at the right time. I will take all those issues I learned and take them inside government instead of outside.”

Read Thomas Clouse’s story here.

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