Russ Burke Lawsuit Over

The Russ Burke lawsuit against the City of Montesano is over.

In a prepared statement released on April 21, former Montesano Mayor Ken Estes wrote:

To Montesano’s Citizens,

Last week I was pleased to receive confirmation from our counsel, Alex Casey, that the February 22 unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the Superior Court’s dismissal of the claims filed by Russell Burke and his spouse against the City of Montesano, Kristy Powell, the former City Administrator, Rocky Howard, the former Director of Public Works, and myself, then serving as Mayor, was final.  I can assure all of you that when I was elected Mayor of the City of Montesano,  I certainly had not anticipated having to work through the departmental issues which came to our attention nor to take the various administrative steps leading to discipline of some employees and, as to Mr. Burke, his dismissal.  However difficult it was to carry out the actions, it was our duty to the Citizens of Montesano to make certain that the City’s resources were properly utilized.

I would like to thank the City’s insurer Nicholson & Associates Insurance and Travelers Insurance Company, for their belief in us; Alex Casey, Ann Trivett, and Robert Christie, the legal counsel designated to handle this matter at the various levels; Scott Snyder, the City’s labor counsel, for providing such effective representation at all levels; and Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers and Sgt. Shane Krohn for their assistance.

I especially appreciate the support of Dan Glenn (then city attorney), Rocky and Kristy as we worked our way through the various investigations and actions.  Then, there has been the unwavering and so much appreciated support of my spouse without which this matter would have been even more difficult to work through.  Also, I would also like to thank those Citizens of Montesano who understood why it was necessary to take the steps leading to this litigation.

In closing, when I received the complaint filed by Mr. Burke’s counsel back in 2013, I was both shocked and saddened by the allegations.  The fact that after three and one-half years two courts have found that there was no legal or factual basis to support those claims which had received much news coverage and talk around town, reaffirms to me one basic point.  That point is that while doing the right thing is often not easy, things come out right in the end.  I can assure you that it has been a difficult period for Kristy, Rocky, myself and unfortunately, our respective spouses and families.  However, that “book” is now closed and may all move on with their lives.

For those who would like to read the Court of Appeal’s decision, I have left a copy at the Clerk’s Office at City Hall.”

Ken Estes.  Mayor 2012-2015

Reached in Utah for comment, Ms. Powell responded:

I’m glad that the city prevailed. Our responsibility was to secure and protect the assets of the City of Montesano and we did so. The results handed down by the courts support our actions.

The former Public Works Director, Russ Burke filed a lawsuit against the City of Montesano, et.al., after he was terminated in 2013 by then-Mayor Ken Estes amid allegations of misuse of city equipment and supplies per a theft investigation regarding city paint. Burke claimed he was terminated due to “political retaliation.” He filed a $400,000 claim against the city.  (For background, see: Russ Burke Loses Appeal and THIS is What an Epic Fail Looks Like.)

A February 22, 2017 decision by the Washington State Court of Appeals rejected Burke’s claim. The decision affirmed  a 2015 Superior Court ruling granting the City of Montesano’s motion for summary judgment. The appellate court also said the City of Montesano “had a legitimate reason to terminate Burke for insubordination.”

In fact, not a single court affirmed Burke’s claim.

To the Bow Wow Brigade and its lock-step “media” lackeys who used the Burke dismissal to launch and drive a hate campaign against Ken Estes and Kristy Powell and made maligning and savaging both your favorite indoor sport: Want some ketchup with that crow?

Shame on you.

Lady Justice – Public Domain

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GUEST AUTHOR: Montesanoans Chime In On Roundabout, Rest Stop

If you’re wondering what happened at last week’s community meeting regarding the proposed roundabout and rest stop in Montesano, the answer is: Plenty. Here’s a first-hand recap. – Ed.

***

March 16, 2017.  Senior Center, Montesano 7 PM  – Committee for Common Sense Meeting

By Ken Estes

Committee Member, Committee for Common Sense

More than 30 people were in attendance at the Committee for Common Sense public meeting concerning the Roundabout and the Rest Area proposal.

Doug Iverson lead off with a statement of why we had called a meeting and then introduced Dan Wood, the only Council member present.  Dan had prepared a Power Point Presentation with aerial (Google) pictures and an overlapping display of circles showing the intersection where the roundabout has been proposed.  It became obvious to all present that a small compact (110 ft. diameter) roundabout would not deal with the large truck/trailers being able to travel safely or swiftly through it.

See Mr. Wood’s Roundabout/Rest Area Presentation.

Projected Costs

Dan’s presentation then moved to the rest area and its projected costs.   This created a lot of comments.  Some were:

  • What was the cost of the study the city contracted?  (Answer–$13,000)
  •  “How many pot holes would that have filled?”
  •  “The city’s priorities should be street repair and up keep.”
  •  “Where are the street crews? We never see them.”

The discussion continued with the estimated cost of the operation of a rest area.  Dan reported the property where proposed is valued at $289,000 and “may be” used for the city share of the construction of the rest area.  This brought up questions and statements like:

Continue reading “GUEST AUTHOR: Montesanoans Chime In On Roundabout, Rest Stop”

Community Meeting on Monte Rest Stop/Roundabout Set For March 16

Don’t look now, but a bout of common sense is about to hit Montesano.

A newly formed community watchdog group, The Committe for Common Sense, is rolling up its sleeves. They’re doing what Queen Vini can’t or won’t do related to the latest city hall boondoggle: Setting up a community meeting for public input on the proposed rest stop and roundabout. Their press release appears below:

COMMITTEE FOR COMMON SENSE

A Community Meeting has been set up in Montesano to discuss theproposed Rest Stop/Roundabout project that the mayor has been promoting. This will provide the public with an opportunity to learn the specifics about this project and get answers to their questions. The meeting is set for 7 PM on Thursday, March 16 at the Montesano Community Center located between the Beehive and the Organics 101 Store on Main Street.

The mayor has been invited to attend the meeting to explain the planning and specifics of the project. We hope that she can attend or delegate someone else to fill in for her. The public has had very little input on this proposed project, since there has not been any Public Hearing. Hopefully, this meeting can provide the public with the details and planning that went into this project

In the meantime, a petition has been developed and will be circulated around town. We realize that many people will not be able to attend the meeting so the petition is one way for them to express their thoughts on this project. Along with the petition, an information sheet has been developed listing the biggest concerns identified regarding this project.

There has been a web site developed that will also provide information, www.committeeforcommonsense.org. For more information, please call 249-5374. (The web site includes additional pages outlining concerns and questions per these projects as well as contact info. Reader input is encouraged. – Ed.)

Montesano cannot afford to gamble on this ill-conceived project. It is highly doubtful that the revenue generated by this project would even cover the maintenance costs. This would leave the City with additional costs out of a budget that is already stretched beyond it’s limits. Why spend $2 million dollars on a two seater Rest Stop and Roundabout and have to pay additional expenses as well? This makes absolutely no sense. Let’s stop this now!

 

The Committee for Common Sense

 


Russ Burke Loses Appeal

Flickr
Flickr

Former Montesano Public Works Director Russell Burke’s claim that he was terminated as “political retaliation” is bogus. That’s according to a February 22 decision by the Washington State Court of Appeals. The court also said the City of Montesano “had a legitimate reason to terminate Burke for insubordination.”

The decision affirms a 2015 Superior Court ruling granting the City of Montesano’s motion for summary judgment on the matter.

Burke was fired by then-Mayor Ken Estes in 2013 amid allegations of misuse of city equipment and supplies per a theft investigation regarding city paint. After his termination, Burke filed a $400,000 claim against the city alleging he was the victim of a hostile work environment.

Two courts disagree.

As noted previously, Superior Court documents obtained via public record request indicated that on November 16, 2015 the parties stipulated to dismiss three of the five causes of action Burke brought against the City of Montesano and all those big meanies at city hall. At the next hearing on November 20, 2015, Judge Erik Price bounced out the last two when he granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. (See: THIS is What an Epic Fail Looks Like.)

After losing in Superior Court, Burke had thirty days to appeal to the Appellate Court. He did. And lost there, too.

In its February 22, 2017 ruling, the Appellate Court affirmed the Superior Court’s ruling. It also held that Burke “failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact that Burke’s political activity was a substantial factor or a pretext in the City’s decision to terminate him.” The Appellate Court ruling begins:

Russell and Julie Burke appeal the superior court’s order granting the City of Montesano’s (City) motion for summary judgment on their claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Because Burke has failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact that Burke’s political activity was a substantial factor or a pretext in the City’s decision to terminate him, we hold that the superior court properly granted the City’s motion for summary judgment.

Read the entire decision at: 2017-48497-8  Or: Washington Court of Appeals – Division II.

In last week’s eleven-page ruling, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling on a three-to-zero vote. The court cites “at least two reasons” (see pages 10 and 11):

First, the City did not rely on the failure to attend a second Loudermill hearing in its termination letter. Estes’s deposition testimony came long after the termination, when he was trying to recall the reasons for the termination. Second, even though Estes’s testimony was inaccurate, it is not reasonable to infer from that testimony that the City terminated Burke because of political retaliation.

Here, the City had a legitimate reason to terminate Burke for insubordination and Burke had not met his burden to present evidence that created a genuine issue of material fact that political retaliation was a substantial motivating factor or pretext in the decision to terminate him. Accordingly, we hold that the Superior court did not err by granting the City’s motion for summary judgment and dismissing Burke’s claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.

We affirm.

Any way you paint it, that color is Epic Smackdown.

When reached for reaction, Mr. Estes politely declined comment.

Burke has 30 days to appeal to the State Supreme Court.

 

 

Image credit.

GUEST AUTHOR: Stop the Train Wreck in Montesano!

Is Montesano Mayor Vini Samuel unable or unwilling to provide an appropriate forum for meaningful community input on a proposed rest stop? Questions and concerns continue to swirl around this project, questions the mayor apparently doesn’t want to address. So this guest author is organizing a community meeting to address the issue at length. The following is uncut and unedited. Used by permission. – Ed

***

public domain
Public Domain

This is a follow-up to a letter I wrote regarding the proposed Rest Stop that was published (in the Vidette) January 19, 2017.  Since that time, more details have emerged and this project is even more ridiculous than originally thought.  Did you realize that this project, if funded, would spend nearly $2 million dollars for a total of two toilets?

In my previous letter I said that the City gets about 3 cents for every dollar spent, well, it is closer to 2 cents.  That means that if the increased revenue in town was $2 million, the City would net $40K.  If you remember, the mayor originally estimated the maintenance costs at $50K, but that has now somehow been revised to a little over $17K.  Even if this estimate is realistic, the City would need $850K in increased revenues to break even!  Not likely.  This project is based on Voodoo economics and needs to be stopped now.

I asked the mayor if she would set up a Community Meeting to discuss this project.  She said that if the funding was approved, she would.  Fellow citizens, if the funding is approved it will be too late.

On January 30, 2017 a group of us, four in all, went to meet with the State Legislators and DOT to let them know that this Rest Stop project was a train wreck waiting to happen.  We presented them with some written material and encouraged them to NOT fund the project.  They seemed to listen to us, but who knows?

I think we need a community meeting to get some real answers to some of our questions and provide the mayor and City Council with some community feedback.  I haven’t talked to a single person in town who favors this project, outside of the mayor and City Council.  Consequently, I am going to set up a meeting and invite the public and city officials to discuss this issue at length.  I will let you all know when a meeting and meeting place is set up.

Remember, we are talking about a two seater Rest Stop for roughly $2 million dollars of taxpayer money.  It is doubtful that the City would generate enough additional revenue to even cover the costs of the maintenance.  Does this make sense?

Sincerely,

Doug Iverson

GUEST AUTHOR: Mayor or Monarch in Montesano?

Every once in awhile someone steps up to the plate and shows some spine. Stares down the pitcher and swings from the heels.

It’s kind of refreshing. Like this guest editorial, complete and uncut, on the latest strokes of brilliance coming out of Montesano City Hall. – Ed

~~~

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Here we go again.  Mayor Vini is pushing forward with this Rest Area Debacle, come hell or high water.  I attended the 1/10/17 City Council meeting to see if there was going to be any discussion about this Rest Area Project.  There was some discussion and some preliminary numbers were discussed.  And, much to my surprise, this project was presented as if it is a done deal.

Several citizens (7) expressed concerns regarding the project, but the Mayor appeared undeterred.  So, here is my take on this proposal.  Absolute, unadulterated, disaster-in-the-making!

According to the mayor this project will be primarily funded by the State.  She is currently twisting some State level elected officials’ arms and is confident the money will be forthcoming.  The numbers that were thrown around were somewhere around $1.8 to $2.8 million, depending on if the round-a-bout was going to be included, etc.

Councilman Woods asked if Council needed to make a motion to support the project in order for her to continue to promote this project.  She said “no”, she planned to pursue this on her own and did not need Council approval (emphasis added).  She would only need them to approve it once she got everything in place. A bit cavalier, wouldn’t you say?

I’m confused, is she our Mayor or is she a self-appointed Monarch?

Now keep in mind, even if the Rest Area is paid for with State monies, the City of Montesano is responsible to maintain it.  When asked about the estimated maintenance costs, Mayor Vini used the figure of $50,000. (FYI, the Rest Area at Elma spent a total of $565,419 on maintenance fees over the past 3 years, or an average of $188,473 annually.)

I have no idea how the $50K figure was computed, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume it is accurate.  The primary purpose for this Rest Area is to get people off the freeway and into town so they will stop and buy things.  (Sound familiar?  WiFi all over again)  Now, the City gets about 3 cents for every dollar spent so it will take $1,666,666.67 in new revenue just to pay the maintenance on the Rest Area.  (Please keep in mind these numbers are an estimate and may vary slightly.)  Either way, we are talking huge numbers.  Make sense?  I didn’t think so.

This notion of getting the cars off the freeway and into town was the same strategy to promote the now famous WiFi Project.  How’s that project working?  Hard to tell, since there is no measurable method to evaluate it.  I have no first-hand experience with the WIFI, but have heard that it is a borderline disaster.  This project was based on “build it and they will come.”  This Rest Area project is based on the same criteria, only the stakes are much higher.  (Remember, this Rest Area project was cussed and discussed 20-25 years ago.  It was a bad idea then, and even a worse idea now!)  There are no guarantees that cars paraded through town are going to stop and shop.  What are they going to buy?  If they need gas or are hungry, they would stop anyway.  Same goes for groceries or fishing licenses.  The only thing you can guarantee by getting cars off the freeway and into town is more traffic.

People, you need to speak up and be heard!  The Wi Fi project is marginal, at best and will cost us all some money in the near future,  but it pales in comparison to this Rest Area.  Don’t allow this lunacy to continue.  Contact your City Council Members or show up at a Council meeting and stop this now, before it’s too late.

Sincerely,
Doug Iverson
Montesano City Resident

***

Can you imagine the hue and cry if the prior administration behaved like this? Why, the Pound Puppy Brigade would be dredging up every pitchfork and cudgel in town. Let me count the hypocrisies.  – Ed.

Mayor to Montesanoans on Roundabout, Rest Stop: “Sit Down and Shut Up”?

 Montesano City Sign

If you don’t want a roundabout or rest stop coming to Montesano or have cause for pause regarding potential costs, then sit down and shut up seems to be the message from Montesano Mayor Vini Samuel.

According to the Vidette, the city planned a public hearing at the January 10 council meeting in which Mayor Samuel was to release details on overall costs for the two proposed projects: a roundabout at the Monte Square intersection and a recreational rest stop between Main and Sylvia Streets. (Possible Montesano Rest Stop Inching Forward. The Vidette, December 29.)

But the January 10 agenda did not include a public hearing on the matter.

“No Need” for Public Hearing?

About half a dozen people or so spoke in opposition to the proposed roundabout during the meeting’s second public comment period. According to former Mayor Doug Iverson, who was in attendance, they were told there was no need for a public hearing as the mayor had the authority to continue with the project and that legislators would be sourcing the funding for both the roundabout and the rest stop.

Roundabout Idea Not New

The roundabout proposal isn’t new. The sticking point has been funding. Former Mayor Ken Estes explained this in a report he prepared for the “reported Public Hearing” at the January 10 council meeting:

Roundabout and Rest Stop Report

Estes reports that the proposed roundabout was “brought up about eight years ago when the Main Street upgrade was originally discussed. City leaders at that time knew the city could not financially complete it in one effort so they planned for Phase 1, 2 and 3. Phase 1 was completed in the late 2000s, starting at the State Highway property and ending at Wynoochee.”

Estes says state and federal funds were found in 2013 to complete phase 2, ending at Marcy. Phase three wasn’t completed due to a lack of funding. Noting that the original plan was for a roundabout at the Broadway intersection, Estes writes:

“When the public got a hold of this proposal, the hue and cry of NO roundabout was heard very loudly. If the plan for the roundabout at the freeway exit and Main was more publicized, you would hear many people speak very loudly against it.”

Other concerns noted that relate to a potential roundabout include:

  • Possible wetland encroachment
  • Effects on storm water runoff/treatment
  • Maintenance costs associated with a proposed fountain
  • The ability of large trucks and other heavy equipment to safely navigate the proposed “90 foot circle”

Proposed Rest Stop

According to Mayor Samuel, the rest stop project is intended to get people off the highway and into Montesano businesses. (Wasn’t “free” Wi Fi supposed to do that?)

Says Estes, “But after business hours, the only businesses to benefit will be those at Monte Square, which already gets freeway traffic after hours.” The proposed rest stop site is located between Main and Sylvia Streets, south of the railroad tracks.

Concerns about the potential rest stop include:

  • Traffic headaches
  • Possible need for increased law enforcement presence
  • Potential vandalism and a “drug use hangout”
  • Costs

Speaking of costs, Mayor Samuel is banking heavily on state funding for both projects. According to the mayor’s state funding request, “Phase 1 includes the roundabout funding which will be sought from DOT and the Outdoor Rec Rest Stop would be a request to Capital Fund in the 2017 Budget.”

Mayor’ State Funding Request

The modern roundabout construction (Option 1) will cost $1,650,000. Compact roundabout construction (Option 2) will cost $425,000. The total “Phase 2” state funding request for the rest stop is $1,791,500.

The mayor is reportedly going to commit the city – read: taxpayers – to fifty percent (50%) of the costs for the rest stop project, in kind, such as furnishing sewer and water lines. Alert residents are wondering where the money’s going to come from? Utility fees? The forest reserve? A new fire department levy? Bake sales and raffle tickets? More “free” Wi Fi?

When’s the next public hearing for these projects?