KID faces 2 more trials in 2013

By John Trumbo, Tri-City HeraldOctober 15, 2012 

The Kennewick Irrigation District, which recently lost a lawsuit that will cost it $1.23 million, faces two more trials next year.

One involves Joetta Rupert, a former real estate agent who is suing for $1 million. She filed a claim of gender discrimination for allegedly being wrongfully terminated in July 2010.

Her trial is scheduled for May 6 in Benton County Superior Court.

And Quail Springs Investments in West Richland also is suing the public irrigation district.

The company claims KID required it to overbuild a replacement pond at a cost of almost $500,000 before it could build an apartment complex near Kennedy and Dallas roads.

That trial is scheduled for Jan. 28, also in Benton County Superior Court.

Earlier this year, Brad Wellenbrock, the former KID engineering manager, was awarded a total of $1.23 million for damages and attorney fees after he said he was wrongly fired for being a whistleblower on violations of KID's policies and practices.

Rupert also believes she wrongly was fired.

She worked at KID for seven years before she was fired from her $80,000-a-year job on the "pretext she violated KID's sick leave policy."

She alleges that her work environment was biased toward men by the fact that she was told not to have "one-on-one contact" with district manager Chuck Freeman because he didn't trust women, and that Scott Revell, a subordinate in Rupert's office who later replaced her as planning manager, did not like working for a woman.

Rupert's lawsuit also claims her firing came after she repeatedly complained to KID officials about the agency's raiding of its $15 million endowment fund to bring water to Red Mountain when then-board member John Pringle was trying to buy land on the mountain that's famous for wine grape production.

The lawsuit also claims a quorum of board members took a private trip on Revell's boat and discussed KID business in violation of Washington's Open Public Meetings Act.

KID has denied Rupert's allegations.

In the Quail Springs Investments case, the developer claims that in 2005 the development company and KID agreed to relocate a 66,000-acre-foot pond from near the middle of seven acres on the property to allow for the 118-unit Gooseridge Apartments in West Richland but KID later imposed conditions that created delays.

The lawsuit claims KID's actions forced developer Lowell McKee of Spokane to build the replacement pond twice the size originally agreed on. McKee's claim to KID said the change cost him $297,000.

KID also has denied McKee's claims.

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