Motel death highlighted in lawsuit

A recent death at Harbor Inn is a point of contention in a lawsuit over the fate of the building.

A recent death at Harbor Inn in Freeland is a point of contention in back-and-forth affidavits and responses in a lawsuit over the fate of the building.

It will be up to the judge, however, to decide whether the death of a 64-year-old former fishing captain with a history of heart issues is relevant to a request for a preliminary injunction seeking to undo the Low Income Housing Institute’s purchase of the motel.

Last month, Freeland Concerned Citizens LLC filed an appeal and motion for preliminary injunction against Island County, the Low Income Housing Institute, known as LIHI, and others over the county commissioners’ decision to partially fund a project to transform the motel into low-income housing. The county commissioners voted 2-1 to match a $1.5 million state grant; the county’s money comes from recording fees, which can only be used for projects related to low-income housing and homelessness.

After the decision, a group of Whidbey Island residents formed the limited liability company and filed the action in Island County Superior Court July 15, although apparently not in that order. The LLC, which is represented by Bellevue attorney Randal Thiel, claims that the commissioners violated the Open Public Meetings Act in making the decision.

The LLC followed up with a motion for preliminary injunction.

Attorneys representing the county, LIHI, the state and the former owner of the motel filed responses. Thiel responded to the responses.

The most recent arguments in the court file are over when to set the hearing for the preliminary injunction and whether it should be paired with motions for summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit.

In a memorandum arguing against delaying a hearing, Thiel wrote that the unattended death is evidence that the preliminary injunction is “critical and necessary.” The death was discovered Aug. 2, the day after Freeland Concerned Citizens LLC filed the preliminary injunction motion. The sale of the motel closed on July 22.

“The unfortunate death at the Harbor Inn is real and LIHI is accountable,” Thiel wrote. “LIHI talks about a Code of Conduct, which it does not execute or enforce.”

Thiel added a request that the judge order the motel closed and vacated until “all fire, health, safety and change of use and occupancy issues are resolved.”

According to the Island County Sheriff’s Office, the death was discovered by first responders after the victim’s brother called in a welfare check; the man was 64 years old and had a history of heart problems.

LIHI identified the man as Konrad Kennelly. He was one of six guests of the motel who had remained after the sale closed. He was not brought in by LIHI and has no connection to LIHI, beyond being allowed to stay, according to court documents filed by LIHI’s attorney.

An online obituary states that Kennelly was a long-time captain in the Alaska fishing industry who reluctantly retired following physical disability.

“Remembered as a reading enthusiast, skilled cook, world traveler and animal lover. He will be greatly missed,” the obituary states.

The family suggested sending memorials to Pasado’s Safe Haven in Sultan.