A South Whidbey resident who is running for Island County commissioner went through a bankruptcy and a lengthy and complicated legal battle with his former corporate employer from 2011 to 2016.
Damian Greene, a Republican, said he’s always been upfront about his financial and legal troubles. Early in the campaign, he posted a video on his campaign Facebook page in which he explains the cases.
Greene emphasized that litigation didn’t show he was guilty of any wrongdoing.
“Everybody knows me,” he said. “I’m an open book.”
Democrat Melanie Bacon, Greene’s challenger for the District 1 seat, said she didn’t know any of the details of Greene’s bankruptcy, but that voters have a right to know, especially since the county may be facing budget challenges next year from the effects of COVID-19.
Greene was an agent for Farmers Insurance for 24 years and had an office in Clinton, according to court documents. He famously had a billboard at the location for many years.
The story of Greene’s financial and legal trouble is long and complicated.
Essentially, his agency went out of business, Farmers Insurance sued him for allegedly stealing clients; he filed a counterclaim; a credit union filed a lawsuit against him for defaulting on loans; and in the midst of the court battles he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Greene lost to Farmers Insurance at trial; he appealed and the two sides settled.
Greene’s troubles began in 2007 when another Farmers agent opened an office nearby, solicited Greene’s clients and allegedly made false statements against Greene, according to a defamation lawsuit Greene filed in Island County Superior Court.
The other agent answered that he did not defame Greene and anything he said about Greene was true.
Greene’s lawsuit stated that he was forced out of business in May 2011 after the other agent started soliciting his clients and Farmers raised rates.
In December 2011, Farmers Insurance filed a lawsuit against Greene in King County Superior Court claiming he had breached a non-compete clause in his contact by soliciting Farmers policyholders to cancel and sign on with another insurance company he had gone to work for.
Greene denied those allegations and filed a counterclaim, alleging that Farmers failed to pay Greene a contract value bonus he was supposed to receive.
In December 2012, in the midst of his lawsuit with Farmers, Greene and his wife filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is a “wage earner’s plan” that allows debtors to develop a plan to repay part or all of the debt. Greene said some of the entities that he owed money to agreed to take a loss.
The lawsuit in King County dragged on for five years, with attorneys filing copious motions, declarations and affidavits over numerous issues.
The judge was asked to make summary judgments multiple times, but the case finally went to trial in June 2016.
The jury found in favor Farmers Insurance and awarded the company $60,000.
Greene, however, appealed the case to the state Court of Appeals.
Before the court ruled, though, Greene negotiated a settlement in his favor with Farmers and the rival agent, according to the debtors’ motion to approve settlements. The settlement wasn’t enough to cover the costs of Greene’s litigation and, therefore, didn’t disrupt bankruptcy proceedings, the document states.
Greene said the experience will make him a better commissioner because it gave him a good understanding of how the court systems work and how damaging and expensive litigation can be. In fact, he said he feels the county is too litigious and wants to change that.
In addition, he said he has empathy for the business people struggling with COVID impacts who may be going through some of what he experienced.