A lawsuit claiming the Port of Coupeville violated the Open Public Meetings Act has been dropped by the complainant.
“I can’t find the smoking gun,” said Diane Paul, who filed the lawsuit in Island County Superior Court last month. Paul alleged commissioners Marshall Bronson and John Carr had discussed a vote to terminate negotiations with the Greenbank Farm Management Group prior to the July 8 port meeting.
Paul, who did not attend the meeting, but had heard about it from the community, filed the lawsuit and attempted to get more people to come forward with evidence of violation.
People did come forward, she said, but the information they provided was not relevant to her July 8 case.
Paul said she was planning on dropping the lawsuit to regroup when she received a letter from port attorney Grant Weed that she said feels like an intimidation tactic.
The letter, in part, says if Paul did not drop her lawsuit the port would be forced to file a motion for summary judgement and seek reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees.
“I was pretty shocked by the tone of the letter,” Paul said. “It’s unnecessary. This is a small community. We could have had a discussion.”
Port Executive Director David Day said he would not speak to the lawsuit but would speak to the cost of attorney’s fees.
“If Ms. Paul is dropping the suit, she’s saving the taxpayers thousands of dollars,” Day said.
At the time of Day’s comment the official paperwork Paul sent dropping the suit had not been received by the port attorney. Weed charges $185 an hour for basic legal services, $140 for paralegal services and $195 for litigation services.
As of the end of August, Day said the port has been charged $2,496 in legal fees.
“There’s more in September, but we won’t know that figure until the end of the month,” he said.
The letter was dated Aug. 20, but Paul didn’t see the letter until Aug. 30 because she was on vacation in Canada for several weeks.
Paul said she received a phone call from Weed asking why she had not responded to the letter and restating the ultimatum and calling Paul’s lawsuit frivolous, which Paul takes offense to.
“I think it (the lawsuit) served its purpose,” Paul said. “It put them on notice that they are being watched.
“I’m still concerned the public is still so in the dark.”
While the lawsuit is dropped, for now, Paul said she will continue to research the subject and if she finds the information she needs to prove wrongdoing, she will refile.
“I would like to ask them under oath if they had prior communication,” Paul said. “I don’t know anything about the running of the farm, my concern has always been with the process. It was just very odd that two commissioners would make such a momentous decision without prior discussion.
“But unless someone fesses up, we may never know.”