Langley’s offer of $50K to settle records lawsuits is rejected

Eric Hood sued the city over public records in 2016, 2019 and 2021. All three are unresolved.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118

LANGLEY — A Whidbey Island man with three outstanding lawsuits against the city of Langley for alleged Public Records Act violations turned down a proposed $50,000 settlement, describing it as a bribe to hide the actions and liability of the city’s attorneys, according to a letter from attorney William Crittenden.

“Hood is fed up with the utterly corrupt municipal attorney practice that this ‘offer’ represents,” wrote Crittenden, who represents Eric Hood.

Hood has filed dozens of public records lawsuits against agencies big and small across the state over the past decade — with a great degree of success. He filed suits against Langley in 2016, 2019 and 2021, all of which are unresolved.

Langley Mayor Scott Chaplin said he is a strong supporter of open government, but he doesn’t agree with everything in the letter from Hood’s attorney.

Chaplin and the council met in executive session earlier this month to discuss the latest developments. The city’s attorney, Ann Marie Soto, is crafting a response.

Hood and Crittenden argue that it is “unethical and tortious” for municipalities to be represented by attorneys through the Risk Management Service Agency, or RMSA, which is a risk pool representing city and towns in the state. The agency provides attorneys to fight Public Records Act cases but then doesn’t cover the resulting penalties. Hood and his attorney claim that the result is attorneys who are free to provide bad advice and claim frivolous defenses, but then municipalities are left with the tabs.

In a Sept. 8 letter, Hood and Crittenden made several unorthodox demands. They want the city to hire an independent attorney, acquire all litigation files from its attorneys in cases against Hood, file court documents admitting the city violated the Public Records Act and delete all “frivolous defenses” from a former attorney in court files.

Soto, who represents the city through RMSA, sent a response on the city’s behalf in November. She took over the cases from a former RMSA attorney who was the target of many complaints from Hood and Crittenden.

Soto’s letter offered $50,000 as a global resolution of the three cases, but she wrote that the other issues were outside the scope of the litigation.

“While Mr. Hood may disapprove of the City’s insurance arrangements and legal counsel, he does not have standing to challenge these ancillary matters,” she wrote. “Simply put, the City’s choice of insurance coverage, decisions whether to retain independent counsel, and requests to its attorneys for their files are the City’s to make, not Mr. Hood’s.”

Crittenden and Hood strongly disagreed, pointing to several cases in which government entities were ordered by courts or agreed to change their policies and behaviors in response to Public Records Act complaints.

“In other words,” Crittenden wrote, “Ms. Soto responded to Mr. Hood’s entirely appropriate demands for changes to the way the City of Langley operates by offering Mr. Hood a large amount of money to just shut up and go away.”

The letter states that Hood’s response to the city’s offer is “a resounding no.”

Since September, five other agencies sued by Hood “have been forced to throw in the towel” and settled, the letter states.

“Hood is not going to tolerate this blatant corruption in his own hometown. Hood now has a litigation ‘war chest’ and one of the best PRA attorneys in the state,” Crittenden wrote, apparently referring to himself.

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling of The Daily Herald.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Boeing 787's in various stages of assembly at Boeing's Everett Plant on April 29, 2017 in Everett. (The Boeing Co.)
Boeing workers signal support for strike if contract talks fail

The union is calling for a 40% raise for workers over the next three years.

A wall diagram shows the “journey of the ballot” at the new Elections Center on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County primary election ballots shipped to registered voters

This year’s primary election will feature races in every corner of the county. Turn in a ballot by Aug. 6 to ensure your vote is counted.

A skeletonized cranium found at Scriber Lake Park in Lynnwood, WA on March 24, 2024. The remains are likely a black male estimated to be over 25 years of age and unknown height and weight. He is estimated to have been deceased at least one year. (Provided by Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office)
Authorities seek help identifying partial skull found in Lynnwood park

A homeless man discovered the skull at Scriber Lake Park. Forensic scientists hope to connect the remains to a missing person.

Guests enjoy the sunset and wind Friday afternoon at Cama Beach Historical State Park on Camano Island on October 25, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
State commission weighs permanent closure of Cama Beach cabins

The Washington State Parks Commission said the park’s native history, sea level rise and septic issues will figure in its decision.

Animal Chaplain Shel Graves has her dog Lily pose for a photo in her home office on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is your dog or cat grieving? There’s an animal chaplain for that

Chaplains offer spiritual care for beings of all species: “Absolutely, animals do feel grief and loss.”

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the Cascade Range and Olympic Mountains on Wednesday. (Provided by the National Weather Service)
Red flag warning issued for eastern Snohomish County through Wednesday

The National Weather Service says critical fire conditions are either imminent or occurring now.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.