Citizen Solutions is just suing so it can get paid

After gathering 400K signatures for I-1000, the firm says it is still owed $1.2M for its efforts.

Jesse Wineberry managed the One Washington Equality Campaign and signed the promissory note. (Photo from 2016 Jesse Wineberry for Congress Facebook page)

Jesse Wineberry managed the One Washington Equality Campaign and signed the promissory note. (Photo from 2016 Jesse Wineberry for Congress Facebook page)

SEATTLE — The firm responsible for gathering 400,000 signatures for Initiative 1000 sued Tuesday to get $1.2 million it says it is still owed for its efforts.

Citizen Solutions filed suit against One Washington Equality Campaign, alleging it has failed to pay a promissory note for $919,512 plus a $150,000 bonus if the affirmative action measure qualified.

That note was signed Jan. 3 and the next day Citizen Solutions submitted 395,000 signatures for the initiative to the Secretary of State’s Office.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, alleges “agents and officers” of the committee pressured the firm “to deliver the signatures without the promised payment telling them if they failed to do so the signatures would be worthless, and no one would ever be paid if it failed to qualify.”

Your Choice Petitions of Spokane, which subcontracted with Citizen Solutions, is also a plaintiff. Owner Brent Johnson has said he is owed $769,000.

Jesse Wineberry, who managed the One Washington Equality Campaign and signed the promissory note, did not respond to emails regarding the lawsuit.

Initiative 1000 allows the setting of recruitment goals for minority candidates in state jobs, education and contracting, significantly loosening existing restrictions on targeted outreach and other forms of affirmative action.

It’s backed by Gov. Jay Inslee and former Washington Govs. Dan Evans, Gary Locke and Christine Gregoire. So too do many unions, progressive organizations, minority groups and businesses.

Because I-1000 was an initiative to the Legislature, it gave lawmakers an option to enact it directly into law rather than place it on the ballot. They did pass it in April, in the final hours of the legislative session.

Opponents responded. Looking to repeal the new law, they qualified Referendum 88 for the November ballot. Voters will now decide the fate of the affirmative action law.

Organizations backing I-1000 have formed a new committee, Washington Fairness Campaign, to beat back the repeal attempt. Wineberry is not part of this group though he’s created a new PAC of his own called Approve I-1000.

The lawsuit names both committees as defendants saying they were formed “to avoid the valid debt” owed by One Washington Equality Campaign “and unjustly enrich themselves and others off the unpaid labor of Citizen (Solutions), (Your) Choice and others.”

Washington Fairness Campaign issued a statement saying the workers should be paid and “the person responsible for this payment is their employer.”

“Our campaign leadership, co-chairs, or donors were not privy to, or signatories to, any fiduciary arrangements including wages, payment schedule, or deficit spending between Mr. (Roy) Ruffino, the signature gatherers he hired, and his client,” reads the statement.

KD Hall, the group’s spokeswoman, added that the lawsuit “is really about the other campaign. We’re an entirely different team.”

Also named is Northwest Passages Consulting of Seattle. The firm, led by veteran consultant Christian Sinderman, worked briefly with Wineberry but did not get fully paid, according to filings with the Public Disclosure Commission. His firm is now employed by Washington Fairness Campaign.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos

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