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City is committed to open government amid judge’s lawsuit
A number of guest opinions and letters to the editor have appeared recently in The Mirror about the city’s decision to disclose a report relating to the Federal Way Municipal Court.
I want to make sure the record is clear.
In February, the city received a public records request for a report about the court. Good open government practices and public disclosure laws require the city to release records unless they are exempt from disclosure.
The city determined the report was not exempt and should be released. Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Michael Morgan hired his own legal counsel and filed a lawsuit to stop the report’s release. In that suit, Judge Morgan asked that the city attorney not represent the city. The city did not object to outside counsel handling the case.
In March, King County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Prochnau found in favor of the city, stating that the report was a public record and should be released. Judge Morgan appealed the decision to the State Court of Appeals. A verdict is pending.
Payment of legal fees has become an issue. In a letter that appeared in The Mirror on July 2, Judge Morgan stated that the city manager had sued him for legal fees and lost the lawsuit. He stated that the city manager was the one who decided to have a court decide who should pay the fees.
Neither the city manager nor the city have sued Judge Morgan.
At the time of the lawsuit on the report, the city notified Judge Morgan it would ask the court to order him to pay legal fees associated with the case. Before the paperwork could be filed, however, Judge Morgan pre-emptively asked Judge Prochnau not to order him to pay any legal fees, and she agreed.
The city routinely seeks to recover legal fees where appropriate. The city has filed a cross-appeal to the State Court of Appeals to allow it to be reimbursed for its legal fees having successfully defended its actions. A verdict is pending.
It is unfortunate that disputes like these occur. However, the City of Federal Way is committed to transparent and open government.
The city will take necessary steps to defend its rights — and the public’s rights — when it is sued over open government practices.
Federal Way Mayor
Jack Dovey: jack.dovey@