The city of Kennewick was offered a settlement in the Columbia Park Golf Course lawsuit, but the offer expired Wednesday with no city council action taken, according to the attorney for the opposition.
The offer would have closed the case if the city paid about $2.6 million, which is $1 million less than the city now owes as the result of a judgment by a Benton County Superior Court jury in 2009, according to the attorney for former golf course operator Gary Long Jr. The jury awarded $3 million and interest has been accruing at almost $1,000 a day.
Long, who managed the golf course on land controlled by the city through a lease with the Army Corps of Engineers, claimed the city reneged on an agreement allowing him to do major improvements.
The city of Kennewick appealed the jury award, but the Court of Appeals in Spokane ruled 2-1 to uphold the judgment in February. The city next filed a motion of reconsideration with the Court of Appeals in hopes of overturning or reducing the judgment. No ruling has been made.
Long's attorney, Nicholas Kovarik of Spokane, sent an angry letter Wednesday to the city, saying that the settlement offer had expired following the Tuesday council workshop.
The settlement proposal was not discussed in the open portion of the workshop, but the workshop was closed to discuss pending litigation and no action was taken after that. City Manager Marie Mosley confirmed that, but said she could not reveal what was discussed in the closed session other than that the topic was litigation. A second closed session was held to discuss a land purchase.
"You can imagine my shock when I learned from you this afternoon that the council members rejected CPGC's settlement proposal without a public vote or comment," Kovarik wrote in the letter to city attorney Lisa Beaton.
Kovarik said he felt he had been misled to believe that the council was holding a meeting rather than a workshop and that there was no vote.
"Even more appalling is the fact the entire purpose behind mediation was to provide a process for the city to resolve this dispute for less than it owes to CPGC, thereby saving the taxpayers money," the letter said.
The entire mediation process has been "nothing more than a charade to justify Ms. Mosley's proposed bonus structure, all at the expense of CPGC and the taxpayers," the letter said.
At the workshop, the council discussed Mosley's employment contract.
Kovarik called the council member's persistence "irresponsible and ill advised." The current administration has depleted all of CPGC's patience and good will, he wrote.
"This (letter) is disappointing to me," Mosley told the Herald. "I'm shocked. I don't understand a lot of things said in the letter."
She was limited in what she could say about pending litigation, including whether the city was in mediation, she said.
"I can guarantee we do not violate the Open Public Meeting Act," she said. At no time did she indicate that a council meeting, rather than a workshop, was planned Tuesday, she said.
The controversy began when Long wanted to replace the golf course driving range with a 67-space RV park, replace the clubhouse and build a new parking lot and boat launch.
Long claims the city went back on his contract and opened negotiations with another developer who also had an RV park proposal.
The city does not have insurance to cover a breach of contract loss, but it has insurance to pay for defending the lawsuit.
The golf course, which had been closed since November, reopened around the first of this month under new management by CourseCo Inc. of Petaluma, Calif., which also has a contract to manage Richland's Columbia Point Golf Course.