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Washington AG Bob Ferguson wants an additional $2.8 million in legal fees from Tim Eyman

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman stands at the end of a session of Thurston County Superior Court on Feb. 10 in Olympia.  (Associated Press)
By David Gutman Seattle Times

The hits keep coming for Tim Eyman.

A month ago, a judge ruled the veteran initiative promoter and conservative activist has been a yearslong, egregious violator of state campaign finance law, fined him $2.6 million and barred him for life from participating in the financial aspects of political campaigns. Now the bill for the court case is coming due.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson wants an additional $2.8 million in legal fees and costs, after his lawsuit against Eyman dragged on for nearly four years due to what Ferguson called Eyman’s “cost-inflating, frivolous, obstructive and defiant litigation tactics.”

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon already granted Ferguson’s office legal fees in the case when he ruled against Eyman last month. A hearing on Ferguson’s specific request for $2.8 million is scheduled for next week.

Eyman, in a fundraising email sent in response, said that last year the Attorney General’s Office, responding to a public records request, said it had spent $1.4 million on the case, through September 2020.

“Today Ferguson claims his political assault cost the taxpayers $2.8 million,” Eyman wrote. “Just another Ferguson lie.”

“Ferguson knows I don’t have $2.6 million or $2.8 million or $5.4 million – he just wants splashy headlines,” Eyman wrote. “Ferguson knows I have less than $29,000 in my own bank account (from my most recent filing with the court).”

Eyman already pays $10,000 to the state on the fifth of each month, as part of a court-approved payment plan, a sum that will rise to $13,500 next year and continue for the foreseeable future.

On Twitter, Ferguson wrote that Eyman’s “antics and delay tactics” cost taxpayers millions. “I plan to collect.”

In a court filing Thursday, Ferguson produced an itemized bill that speaks to the lengths his office went to in its suit against Eyman.

In total, seven lawyers and staff spent 9,899.71 hours on the Eyman case, Ferguson says. That’s the equivalent of about 13.5 months, day and night. They billed at hourly rates ranging from $123 to $408.

The case contains nearly 1,600 docket entries and the state had to file or respond to more than 160 motions in six different courts. Nearly 100 of those required oral argument. Eyman was held in contempt for more than two years for refusing to comply with court orders.

Ferguson’s attorneys took more than two dozen depositions in three states and reviewed more than half a million pages of documents. Eyman and his advocates were, at various times, represented by eight different law firms.

“Defendant Eyman has substantially inflated the cost of this litigation through his antics,” Ferguson wrote in the filing. “The State has had to spend thousands of attorney hours answering baseless discovery requests, responding to unfounded motions, and most of all, contending with Defendant Eyman’s refusal to comply with his discovery obligations.”

Eyman was found liable last month of “numerous and particularly egregious” violations of campaign finance law for laundering political donations to enrich himself, accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm, secretly shuttling money between initiative campaigns and concealing the source of other political contributions.

Ferguson says Eyman’s “antics” and evasive tactics began from the very beginning of the case and continued, essentially unabated, for the next nine years.

The legal case against Eyman began in 2012, with an investigation by the state’s campaign finance watchdog, the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).

Due to “avoidance tactics” the PDC had to issue 12 separate subpoenas to Eyman.

In 2013, PDC staff told Eyman that he needed to preserve all documents related to payments he’d received from Citizen Solutions, the signature-gathering firm he worked with.

“He did not,” Ferguson wrote. “Defendant Eyman did not produce the records requested, and they were eventually destroyed.”

When Eyman was interviewed “his answers were deceptive.”

The PDC eventually concluded its investigation and referred it to Ferguson, who filed suit in 2017.

“Defendant Eyman’s delays and obstruction of the litigation process started immediately,” Ferguson wrote.

Eyman, Ferguson wrote, refused to respond to file responses in court and when he did, his responses were late and incomplete. Six months after the lawsuit was filed, Eyman was found in contempt. A year and a half later, still in contempt, Eyman was found in contempt again.

Discovery conferences were scheduled. The dates came and went without response.

Eyman made 10 separate attempts to purge the contempt over more than two years, Ferguson wrote. For each one, Ferguson wrote, his attorney and the case’s special master “spent hours on the phone with Defendant Eyman explaining how he could purge contempt. Despite the State’s and the Special Discovery Master’s best efforts, Defendant Eyman refused to respond.”

Ferguson’s office filed 25 separate motions for discovery in the case.

Eyman filed two discovery motions against Ferguson’s office, requiring the attorney general’s personal computer to be mirrored and searched and his office to review hundreds of thousands of pages of records. Eyman, in a fundraising email, admitted that this would cause legal costs to go up, but wrote “it’s worth it to put that dirty dog on the defensive for a change.”

In the end, Ferguson wrote, none of the thousands of documents that his office produced in response to Eyman’s discovery requests was presented at trial.

Eyman filed a motion to try to prevent an assistant attorney general, who had been working on the case, from retiring.

Eyman filed for bankruptcy, in what Ferguson says was an effort to stall the lawsuit against him. When the bankruptcy court denied his effort to stall the suit, Eyman “immediately tried to dismiss the bankruptcy.”

“Eyman’s delaying tactics and obstructionist actions are the cause of the significant time and effort (thousands of hours) spent by the taxpayers of Washington State in litigating this case,” Ferguson wrote. “The fees and cost amounts listed above should be awarded.”