A Yakima County resident who sued the city of Selah in November in an open meetings case is seeking additional damages for alleged violations of the state’s Open Public Records Act.
Trent Wilkinson’s lawsuit, filed in Yakima County Superior Court on Dec. 8, alleges that city staff failed to disclose relevant records in a timely fashion “through bad faith, gross incompetence, recklessness, inadequate searches” and insufficient training or procedures for employees.
The lawsuit states that Wilkinson asked, in late September, for records related to emails sent by Selah City Council members to each other, as well as reports, discussions, or investigations related to Open Public Meeting Act violations since June 1.
The lawsuit alleges Wilkinson has not received a response to date, in violation of state law, and requests a fine of $100 per document per day and a mandate for more training for the city’s staff.
The city of Selah did not comment on the pending litigation, per the city’s protocol.
Wilkinson is represented by attorney Tim Hall with the Yakima-based law firm Hall and Gilliland. Hall also is representing Wilkinson in another lawsuit, filed in Yakima Superior Court in November.
That lawsuit alleges Selah City Council members and staff violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act when they voted 5-2 in a closed-door meeting to erase chalk art from city streets.
The chalk art appeared in June in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd earlier this year, but also included anti-racist messages and criticism of Selah City Administrator Don Wayman.
The lawsuit notes that Washington’s public meetings act requires governing bodies to conduct business in open meetings. Closed-to-the-public executive sessions are permitted to discuss litigation, personnel matters, or real-estate negotiations, but officials are not allowed to take action or vote during executive sessions.
Court documents and a YouTube video of a recorded July 28 council meeting show Wayman referencing a 5-2 vote by the City Council to erase the chalk art, despite no open public meetings including that vote.
The case is set for a hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18.
Wilkinson also filed a lawsuit alleging public records violations against the city of Wapato in 2018. The case settled in January 2019 for $30,000. Wilkinson also received $3,500 in September 2019 to settle a defamation lawsuit, in which he alleged Wapato’s then-city administrator had made disparaging remarks about him.
Earlier this week, the Selah Alliance for Equality filed a lawsuit in federal court saying the city censored the group by removing its signs. The group members are represented by attorneys from the Seattle law firm Perkins Coie and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.
Editorial Note: This article has been updated to reflect the Public Records Act lawsuit was filed on Dec. 8.