Former Mesa mayor says no to settlement offer from town

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldJune 14, 2012 

MESA -- A settlement offer that included an apology, promise of a plaque at city hall and more than $200,000 wasn't enough to settle a long-running lawsuit with former Mayor Donna Zink.

Zink decided in-stead to file an appeal with the state Supreme Court. If the city loses, the current mayor warned Zink that the case could bankrupt the small town of about 490 people.

The lawsuit dates back almost a decade and stems from Zink's issues with the city over a building permit and her frustrations in getting public documents from the city.

The city's settlement offer included apologies to Zink and her family "for the ordeal you have gone through regarding your efforts to obtain records from the city."

"After nine years, did they think I'd roll over and say, 'Oh, gosh. All will be forgiven?' Their apology was empty," Zink told the Herald.

The case has ping-ponged back and forth for years between the Court of Appeals and Superior Court. It was last argued before the Court of Appeals in Spokane in March 2011, but no decision has come down yet.

The settlement offer was an attempt by the city to put the issue to rest without more litigation.

The city offered to pay Zink $110,719 "in recognition that you were required to incur fees to vindicate your rights."

It also made three additional offers:

-- Give her another $90,000, for a total of almost $201,000.

-- Or give her another $65,000 and invest another $25,000 to improve access to city records, primarily by creating a website and posting online essential documents. This would give Zink a total of almost $176,000.

-- Or give her $25,000 for a total of almost $136,000 and also invest $25,000 in improving access to city records and sparing the city from too much of a financial hit.

The city also pledged if Zink accepted one of the last two offers to put up a plaque dedicated to Zink at city hall, thanking her for her efforts to make the city more transparent.

"When she turned down more than $200,000, it blew my mind. I'd like to get this over with so the city can progress," said Mayor David Ferguson.

With Zink's rejection of the settlement, Ferguson said the only thing the city can do now is wait for a response from the Supreme Court.

"That could take six months, even longer," he said.

In the settlement offer, the city warned that if the case goes back to court, part of the $90,000 award will be used to pay the city's court costs. That would leave the city without any money to pay any court-ordered awards and may result in the city having to declare bankruptcy.

"In that case, we'd have to disincorporate. Mesa would become part of Franklin County," Ferguson said.

Zink claims that only would affect city officials.

"No one cares about bankrupting the city except the mayor, clerk and some officials. My neighbors are not saying anything to me about being worried about bankrupting the city. They're just not worried about it," she said.

"I'm in a position where I can go another 10 years," she said.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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