A recent editorial in the Renton Reporter (May 10, 2012) identifies a “misconception” that KCLS threatened to sue Renton over the library petition. The newspaper offers to clear up these rumors. with these words: “Frankly, there are misconceptions out there, including whether KCLS threatened to sue the City of Renton, that continue to cloud important issues. The Renton Reporter will do its part to clear up any half-truths and untruths.”
The Renton Reporter may not have to go far to find the source of the lawsuit rumors. Their own editorial a few weeks earlier could easily give readers the impression that a lawsuit was imminent.
Here are some phrases from their editorial of March 22, 2012:
“…City Attorney Larry Warren makes a compelling legal argument that an initiative to keep the downtown library where it is over the Cedar River is illegal…”
“… could lead to protracted visits to a courtroom….”
“… the city is legally obligated to carry out the decisions …”
“… It’s not possible, at least practically, to un-negotiate the agreement with KCLS. ”
“…an initiative is not the legally appropriate way to make law, at least in a city.”
“…most of which point to a poorly written or ill-conceived initiative. A legal precedent set in Bellevue deals it a body blow.”
“… may yet have their initiative certified, although that’s not the same as final victory.”
“…We believe that the “done” is cast in legal stone….”
A citizen reading this editorial in the newspaper could be lead to believe that a suit from KCLS was either imminent or threatened. After all, what else might be meant by “could lead to protracted visits to the courtroom.” ?
I have never thought this issue would end up in a lawsuit. KCLS is bound by the interlocal agreement to mediate disputes with Renton before going to court, and it would be an act of very bad faith for them to sue the ninety-three thousand taxpayers of Renton. KCLS is a service provider to us, and KCLS receives about five million dollars a year from our citizens. (This five million dollars is two-to-three times what we were paying to run our libraries ourselves. ) It is difficult to imagine that taxpayers would want to willingly continue to hand over five million a year to a service provider that was using part of the money to sue the City of Renton. Under state law, a de-annexation election could happen as early as February if Renton taxpayers felt there own hard-earned dollars were being collected and used to sue Renton taxpayers instead of being used for library service.
What I know is that KCLS was disappointed with the citizens petition, and their lawyers advised them to notify Renton that there was a potential breach which might need informal resolution or mediation. The issue was resolved by Renton agreeing to continue the design work during the 90-day election process. As long as we don’t kick off any new design activities, this probably does not cost much more than halting the design work and then dealing with either restarting the work or negotiating a buy-out of the design contract after the election.
I have included the legal advice that KCLS received from their attorney K&LGates, which you can read by clicking here