News

Twist added to sex offender housing hunt

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

The state attorney generals and the city of North Bend are in a legal stalemate over a sex offender transitional housing facility, and south King County activists are concerned the legal chain of events could precipitate negative fallout in Peasley Canyon.

North Bend has received an injunction to prevent the state Department of Social and Health Services from building a transitional home for civilly committed sex offenders there. In response, the state is prepared to ask the court to strike the injunction.

But state attorneys have agreed not to file their response if North Bend doesn’t formally serve the injunction unless Grouse Ridge Road in North Bend is chosen. Since the injunction hasn’t been formally served, state officials say, DSHS Secretary Dennis Braddock can still consider North Bend.

It’s a standoff that leaves Federal Way-area residents concerned that, legally, North Bend must be removed from the list of potential locations for civilly committed sex offender housing and ups the chances of Peasley Canyon being chosen for the facility, which is expected to house from six to 12 civilly committed, Level 3 sex offenders who undergo treatment on McNeil Island and become eligible for transition back into society.

Auburn attorney Yvonne Kinoshita Ward, who is representing Concerned Citizens of Auburn and Federal Way, argues the injunction forbids DSHS from considering the site now or in the future — which precludes Braddock from considering North Bend at all.

“The injunction said DSHS cannot consider Grouse Ridge. The statute says injunctions are binding,” Ward said. “It’s a huge obstacle for the state now. Legally, Grouse Ridge is off the list.”

But Bill Williams, chief of the Social and Health Services division of the attorney general’s office, which represents DSHS, said that since the injunction hasn’t been formally served — the office has just been notified of the decision — and since the attorney general reached the agreement with North Bend, Grouse Ridge Road will remain up for consideration.

DSHS spokesman Steve Williams said the North Bend site remains on the list.

“From DSHS’ point of view, nothing has changed,” he said. “North Bend is still on the list.”

Last April, North Bend filed a complaint against the state, but officials there said they wouldn’t pursue a lawsuit unless Grouse Ridge Road was chosen.

On May 9, the state was served the complaint, which asked the court to rule whether the site could be chosen by DSHS and to prohibit a transitional home for sex offenders from locating there.

The state, represented by the attorney generals office, had 20 days to respond to the complaint or to file a notice of appearance, which essentially lets the court know the defendant plans to appear in court and entitles the defendant to later notices of court action.

According to court records, the attorney general missed the deadline. Williams, a senior assistant attorney general, said an attorney in his office thought he had filed the notice of appearance, but didn’t.

“It was just a human error,” Williams said.

On June 9, North Bend was awarded an order of default, and on June 16, the court issued the injunction.

Because of the state’s failure to appear, North Bend was granted what they requested in their complaint –– that Grouse Ridge Road didn’t satisfy DSHS’ own criteria and should permanently be removed from consideration for the proposed sex offender housing.

State attorneys argue that North Bend city attorney Michael Kenyon should have told them he was seeking the order of default.

In transcripts from a public hearing in North Bend included in the state’s response, Kenyon said, “We filed a lawsuit and we are not going to do anything with that lawsuit until this process plays out and we see if this site is selected.”

Williams said his assistant attorney general, thinking he had filed the notice and that Kenyon wasn’t going to press the issue unless North Bend was chosen, decided to wait to file the state’s response. When they heard about the notice of default, Williams said, state attorneys drafted their request to vacate the injunction.

Shortly after that, the state and North Bend reached the agreement “in order to conserve their own resources as well as the resources of the Court...” according to court document.

If Braddock ultimately picks Grouse Ridge Road in North Bend, state attorneys will kick into action the motion asking the court to strike the injunction — but not until or unless DSHS chooses North Bend.

In return, North Bend agreed not to say the state’s failure to do anything between now and the time North Bend might be selected constitutes negligence or a failure to carry out due diligence, according to court records.

And if the state ultimately picks a site somewhere else — Peasley Canyon, Orillia Road or a warehouse in downtown Seattle — North Bend will drop the suit without prejudice.

Regardless, Auburn attorney Ward said it’s unlikely Braddock will pick Grouse Ridge Road now, considering the state would have to file their request to strike the injunction and then face a lawsuit from North Bend.

And she expressed frustration that an oversight in the attorney general’s office led to the loss of North Bend — and an increase in the odds of Peasley Canyon getting selected from one-in-four to one-in-three.

“We were in pretty good shape,” she said, adding a technical problem with the warehouse site in Seattle could leave the options suspended between Peasley Canyon and Orillia Road. “This action took out the second-best option.”

Williams, the senior assistant attorney, said North Bend will remain as much an option as the other three sites. “DSHS will make the decision based on the merits of the site,” he said. “Regardless of the site, there will be litigation.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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