City hired attorney will represent the city, not individual citizens, protestors told
by Jack Mayne
People expecting an attorney hired by the Des Moines City Council to advise them of ways they can appeal in the Woodmont area drug and substance rehabilitation facility will be disappointed.
“Any lawyer hired by the city will make decisions for the city and not the citizens of Des Moines,” Councilmember Bob Sheckler told the Council audience at the meeting (Oct. 15). If citizens want a lawyer to tell them their rights, they need to hire their own lawyer, Sheckler said.
The meeting came as the Council was informed the proposed facility will be placed on hold until at least 2016, giving Valley Cities time to find another location for some or all of its operations.
Mayor Dave Kaplan said everything was on hold, “particularly the final design review decision and the building permit application…”
Kaplan said the City of Des Moines will do nothing more on the proposed area drug and substance rehabilitation facility until at least 2016, giving Valley Cities time to find another location for some or all of its operations
Still want a lawyer
But some wanted to continue the search for facts on the State Environmental Policy Act and earlier appeals.
Resident Sheila Brush said the Woodmont project is only on hold and there could come a time in the future when decisions are made that people may want to appeal and a lowering or waiver of the city’s $800 administrative appeal fee.
Urquhart said City Manager Tony Piasecki had the power to waive the fee that is higher than other cities. For example, she said, Kent charges $250 for an appeal, Federal Way charges $120.50, and it is $500 in Normandy Park but the city’s website shows how to get the appeal free waived.
“The City of Bellevue charges zero,” she said.
Piasecki said he could make changes, but only after he reviews the issue.
No courtesy to Des Moines
Brush then told of seeing online a presentation by Ken Taylor of Valley Cities to the Federal Way City Council on Feb. 17, before the Des Moines land was purchased.
“The project is huge, the largest thing I have ever undertaken in my 30-plus years. Technically it is not in Federal Way but in Des Moines,” she quoted Taylor as telling the Federal Way Council. ‘As far as I know, it has never been done before.’”
Brush said, “that is so scary and I know it may be moving (to a new location) but the fact that he acknowledged the City of Federal Way and didn’t have the courtesy to come before you, like I am doing now, and before all of you, and let us all know what was coming down the pike.”
Brush told the Council it would take a lot of work “so we don’t get into this pickle again.”
Candace Urquhart wanted to make certain the Council’s hiring of an outside lawyer would continue despite the pause in the Valley Cities’ project.
“Let’s use this time, educate ourselves.”
She noted the city attorney had told prospective lawyers to look at the city’s web site, but since they were potentially charging $400 an hour, that was not a wise decision.
City Attorney Pat Bosmans said it was up to individual lawyers to decide what sort of research they needed to do.
Bosmans said that any attorney hired by the city must speak for the city.
“The attorney can’t speak for the citizens, generally. That is just not the role,” Bosmans told Urquhart, who said she was “disappointed at this use of money.”
Councilmember Bob Sheckler he has never been able to answer what is it we want from outside counsel.
“If we are looking to get an opinion to see if there were any missteps in the SEPA determination, then that is wrong. To imply that, I think is wrong, too, and if people think that is what we are trying to do, I am sorry to say that that isn’t true. Any opportunities for those appeals have long … passed.”
Sheckler said if responsible lawyers review the matter they are going to say there is nothing the city can do, the issue is beyond that.
“If there was an attorney brought in on this, it is going to represent the city, it isn’t going to represent the city, it is not going to represent the public,” Sheckler said.
“If we hire them, they are not going to represent you,” he said to a person in the audience who questioned his logic.
“If you wanted an attorney to represent you, then you have to get your own. But, again, any attorney who is responsible is going to look at the SEPA determination that was made and the LUPA (Land Use Petition Act) appeal and say, ‘I am not going to touch it.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Matt Pina said a meeting has been set to discuss what the Council wants from the outside review.