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RPS agency finally has cash in hand

Fri., Dec. 17, 2004

For the first time in years, the city agency that oversees the financially strapped River Park Square garage has some money.

It’s not much, only $80.

It doesn’t come from the garage’s main function, parking cars, but from its chief byproduct, litigation.

Now if the Spokane Parking Public Development Authority can only figure out what to do with the four checks of $20 each, which came attached to writs of garnishment. A writ of garnishment is a court order to divert money to someone who has a legal claim to it.

“I don’t know where we deposit the $80,” board chairman Hal Ellis said Thursday. “We might not have a bank account that works.”

The development authority didn’t have to decide Thursday. In fact, it couldn’t, because the board didn’t manage to have a quorum for its monthly meeting.

The PDA, as it is generally called, was assigned the task some six years ago of overseeing management of the River Park Square garage as part of the complicated deals over the mall between the city and the mall development affiliates of Cowles Publishing Co.

Cowles Publishing also owns The Spokesman-Review.

The all-volunteer board has been dragged into most lawsuits involving the garage. But because the garage is not generating enough money to pay all of its expenses, there’s nothing left to pay board expenses for such things as office space, secretaries, accountants or lawyers.

Last Saturday, the City Council approved a tentative agreement between the city and the mall development companies, which needs PDA approval. That agreement was on the board’s agenda, but only two members showed up. The board has five slots, but only four are filled, and a quorum is three.

Ellis said the language for one aspect of the agreement, a letter of credit from the mall developer, isn’t final yet, so the board couldn’t have voted anyway. They’ll try to get at least three members together next week, when the document is finished.

But the PDA does face a new legal wrinkle, Ellis said. It has been drawn into yet another court fight, this one between the Cowles development companies and their former mall manager, RWR Management Co.

RWR had sued the developers for breach of contract and last summer won a $6.5 million jury verdict. The development companies have appealed, but RWR wants to lay claim to any money the city might be loaning the PDA to pay garage expenses the Cowles companies have been covering for more than four years.

The city and the developer have been arguing about that loan in court for that whole period and the settlement that would make those lawsuits go away would also do away with those loans.

Jim King, the PDA’s volunteer attorney, said the garnishments seem to be filed “on the theory that the PDA has assets, which is a delusional theory.”

There are four separate companies involved in the case with RWR, so the management company filed four different writs of garnishment. State law requires the company that receives the garnishment to be paid $20, so RWR had to send a check for that amount with each writ.

“Eighty dollars is real money, which is more than this board has seen in a long time,” Ellis said.

The board has significant outstanding debts, but there’s no telling where the $80 would be spent. The board is likely to disband after the settlement turns the garage over to the mall developer.

Assuming, of course, it can muster a quorum to vote itself out of existence.

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