Monroe settles open records lawsuit for $157,394

MONROE — It all started when activist Meredith Mechling asked for e-mails between City Council members and the city’s lawyer.

When the city failed to fully comply, she sued Monroe under the state’s public records laws in 2006. She won in October 2009 in the Court of Appeals.

The controversy played out almost five years, but it finally come to a close Friday when Monroe paid Mechling $157,394 to settle the dispute.

“If we don’t hold our government accountable, things will never change,” Mechling said.

The settlement covers the nearly $115,000 Mechling spent on legal fees. It also is about $35,000 less than what she proposed to settle the case in November 2009.

The money came from Monroe’s revenue stabilization fund, which is earmarked for financial emergencies.

Monroe has made adjustments in how it handles information requests, Mayor Robert Zimmerman said.

Monroe now has two employees who deal with public information requests. They’ve received more training, city administrator Gene Brazel said.

The council approved the settlement at its Dec. 7 meeting. The city earlier this year paid $20,000 for its own legal fees in the case, city financial manager Dianne Nelson said.

Both sides agree it is good the case is closed.

“It’s better for everybody involved to put these things behind us,” Mechling said.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.

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