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Decision expected on sex offender housing

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

A court order removing Grouse Ridge Road in North Bend from consideration as a site for housing for convicted sex offenders was overturned last week, just in time for state Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Dennis Braddock to announce today where the facility will be.

Still, Concerned Citizens of Auburn and Federal Way, a group of community activists opposed to a Peasley Canyon site that’s in the running, are frustrated by a mistake in the state attorney general’s office that allowed North Bend to be removed from the list in the first place, and the perceived foot-dragging to fix it.

Braddock is choosing among Peasley Canyon near Federal Way, Orillia Road near Seatac, Grouse Ridge Road in North Bend and a warehouse in south Seattle.

Last week, Concerned Citizens and the city of Seattle filed a motion in King County Superior Court, asking a judge to strike the earlier decision removing North Bend from the list.

Yvonne Kinoshita Ward, the attorney representing Concerned Citizens, said that in addition to arguing on behalf of the state to repair the mistake, the intervening groups told the judge it was “unjust and unfair for one to site to be dropped” because of a state error.

“We had to do the state’s job,” she said.

According to court records, the mistake occurred when the attorney general’s office failed to file a response to a North Bend lawsuit because an attorney thought he had already done it. On June 9, North Bend was awarded an order of default because the AG’s office never filed a motion to appear.

Because the state never showed, North Bend was granted what it requested in its complaint –– that Grouse Ridge Road permanently be removed from consideration for a secure community transitional facility for civilly committed sex offenders.

In response, the state argued North Bend city attorney Michael Kenyon had said he wouldn’t pursue a lawsuit unless North Bend was selected. The state and North Bend eventually reached a deal: If Braddock was to pick Grouse Ridge Road, state attorneys would ask the court to strike the injunction barring North Bend from consideration.

In return, North Bend agreed not to say the state’s failure to do anything until then constituted negligence or a failure to carry out due diligence, according to court records. And if Braddock picked another site — Peasley Canyon, Orillia Road or a warehouse in downtown Seattle — North Bend officials agreed to drop the suit without prejudice.

Regardless, Ward said it would be unlikely Braddock would pick Grouse Ridge Road with the default order standing, considering the state first would have to file their request to strike the injunction and then face a lawsuit from North Bend.

State officials countered they’re facing lawsuits from groups at every site and that North Bend was up for consideration all along.

Still, Ward and attorneys from Seattle filed the motion last week to intervene on behalf of the state to ask the court themselves to overturn the ruling.

“They screwed up and wouldn’t fix it, so citizens had to do it on their own,” Ward said. “Thank goodness the judge did the right thing.”

The sex offender housing will accommodate up to 12 offenders — but not that many to begin with — who undergo treatment and become eligible for transition back into society.

Ward said Monday that waiting for Braddock’s impending announcement was “nerve-wracking,” but her group is prepared to act immediately if he chooses Peasley Canyon.

In June, Ward filed a lawsuit in Superior Court asking for summary judgement to determine whether the Peasley site meets DSHS criteria and, if not, whether excluding homeschools from the protection offered students at public and private schools is constitutional.

DSHS officials have said the homeschool and playground area adjacent to the Peasley site wouldn’t be eligible for the same protections because state law doesn’t specifically include homeschools as protected areas. Officials interpreted the playground, located in the family’s yard, to be more of a private home area.

Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh declined to rule on the case unless Peasley Canyon is actually chosen, but she didn’t dismiss it completely. If Peasley is chosen, Concerned Citizens is prepared to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We’ll just crank it up into full gear,” Ward said. “It’s going to be all-out war then.”

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

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