The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Ken Graham
The Times 

County May Help Starbuck Lawsuit Defense


DAYTON – Starbuck City Manager Candice Harrison met with the Columbia County Commissioners Monday morning and asked if the Town of Starbuck could contract with the county for legal services to help defend against a lawsuit regarding the Washington Public Records Act.

As The Times reported last week, Starbuck, which has about 130 residents, has been sued by Spokane attorney Stephen Kirby for tens of thousands of dollars in fines because he claims the town failed to respond to two letters containing public records requests he says he sent them in 2014. Harrison says the requests were never received by the city.

The commissioners consulted by phone with Columbia County Prosecutor Rea Culwell during the meeting and asked her if she would be able to devote the time needed to work on the case, without impacting its other work. Culwell said she needed to review the details of the case before making a final decision, but that she felt it was in the county’s best interests to assist Starbuck.

“If Starbuck were to go bankrupt, they could cease to exist as a city, and become [an unincorporated] part of the county,” Culwell said. “It’s best for the county if Starbuck remains a city.”

Culwell told the commissioners that Starbuck could contract for legal services, as it already does for planning and law enforcement service. She also assured the board that her involvement in the case would in no way put the county in legal jeopardy regarding fines or penalties.

Culwell also told the commissioners that she has a lot of experience working on issues related to public records requests, and would not have to spend time learning case law in order to handle the Starbuck case.

The commissioners gave Culwell the go-ahead to review the case before making a final decision on whether to contract with Starbuck.


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