I’ve been rather busy lately and haven’t posted some recent info here. I will post other new information shortly. If you too believe that the Lewis documents should be made public please send an email to Mayor Verner and the City Council to the addresses listed in the header of my email to the City Clerk.
Ron the Cop
Date: Tue, Jul 22, 2008 at 8:43 PM
Subject: Formal Demand Letter for Release of the O. Yale Lewis Documents from City of Spokane
To: “Pfister, Terri” <TPfister@spokanecity.org>
Cc: Mayor <Mayor@spokanecity.org>, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, “Rush, Richard” <email@example.com>,
ORIGINAL SENT BY
Certified US Mail
July 22, 2008
Terri Pfister, City Clerk
City of Spokane
808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Spokane, WA 99201
Re: Formal demand for public release of O. Yale Lewis documents received by Mayor Mary Verner on behalf of City of Spokane
Dear Ms. Pfister:
Attorney O. Yale Lewis was retained by former Mayor John Talbott to unravel the RPS fraud and to seek redress on behalf of the citizens of Spokane. Lewis is the source expert for public/private joint venture legislation in the State of Washington. Lewis sent Mayor Mary Verner a package of documents relevant to the RPS bond fraud that was withheld from Council prior to its voting on the RPS “bailout” package. Lewis’ action was prompted by certain statements that succeeding bond counsel Laurel Siddoway made on her website, http://correctingcamas.com. Siddoway was hired as the special bond counsel after Lewis when the then Mayor John Powers was elected to office. Siddoway and her husband Doug Siddoway were large contributors to Power’s mayoral campaign. Michael Ormsby of Preston & Gates who was recently publicly castigated by the IRS for his actions in the RPS bond fraud was Power’s campaign treasurer. As I reported before:
This is the same Michael Ormsby that the IRS took the unprecedented action of castigating publicly in implicating him in the RPS bond fraud as reported in Bond Buyer for, “. . . incompetence and disreputable conduct”[My emphasis]. The Bond Buyer mistakenly reported though that the tax-exempt status of the RPS bonds was preserved in this settlement. In fact the tax-exempt status was disallowed and the IRS got its back taxes of some $8M through a secret deal with Preston & Gates [Note: Re $8M IRS settlement this is my understanding I’ve heard from sources]
These documents were either withheld by Mayor Verner upon the advice of and or intercepted by the City Attorney’s Office that is now alleging an attorney/client privilege to preclude their release. The City Attorney’s Office is also saying that Talbott and Rodgers are no longer entitled to receive them as they are now out of office. See Lewis’ letter of January 10, 2008:
. . . From my perspective, Siddoway’s treatment of the 2000 litigation which I conducted at the direction of the City Council, former Mayor John Talbott and City Manager Henry Miggins deeply flawed. The same would be true of statements that I was replaced and/or terminated as Special Counsel because Hendricks & Lewis’ fees and costs were excessive.
. . . I suspect . . . much, if not all of the other material that is attached to this letter will be new to you [Mayor Verner]. Although I assume you realize that much of the material on Siddoway’s website is highly specious, I think you will be shocked not only by how wrong her assertions are about the claims she “dropped” and the reasons she gives for “dropping those claims, but also by how apparent it was from the outset that the Powers/Siddoway strategy would implode with devastating impact on Spokane taxpayers. . . [My emphasis]
City Council member Steve Corker, former Mayor John Talbott, and former City Council member Cherie Rodgers were — as you presumptively know — extensively involved in reviewing, directing and supporting the 2000 litigation Ms. Siddoway and former Mayor Powers have been so publicly hostile and dismissive. Consequently, I think each of them should also have the opportunity to review this material, which I would like to share with them unless you direct otherwise.
As Brunt reported previously in his S-R article of June 7, 2008, on withholding the Lewis documents from Talbott and Rodgers:
In his letter to Verner, Lewis asked for city permission to hand over the full packet to Corker, former City Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers and former Mayor John Talbott. City attorneys decided against providing all the records to Rodgers and Talbott. . .
Dalton said the city didn’t release all the documents to protect its right of attorney-client privilege and prevent further lawsuits.
Rodgers filed a records request for the information in April. She argues that because she was a City Council member while Lewis was working for the city, the city can’t use attorney-client privilege to prevent her from getting the documents. She was the client and should have been shown the letters then, she said. Craven noted that Rodgers is no longer on City Council.
“Do you stay (a client) forever because you were on the City Council?” Craven said.
Rodgers said Craven told her in a phone conversation the city would not give her the full packet.
“He said it’s no big deal, it’s just two attorneys trying to figure out who’s the smartest,” Rodgers said. “I said, ‘Now you just make me more curious than ever.’ “
Said Craven, “It’s obvious to everyone, and it always has been, that there were two strategic visions by the lawyers who represented the city.”
The City Attorney’s Office is asserting an “attorney/client” privilege as well as to prevent future lawsuits in refusing to release a majority of the Lewis documents. In my opinion no such privilege now exists. The City Attorney’s Office categorizes these documents as posturing between attorneys. In light of former City Attorney Jim Craven’s letter that recently became public to the Mayor Verner and Council as reported by Brunt in his S-R article of July 4, 2008, I believe otherwise. In my opinion Craven’s letter is a “backhanded” threat that sends a chilling message to Council members by suggesting personal liability was possible if these documents were released by any individual Council member. Craven is banking that there will be no Council majority to release the Lewis documents.
I believe this assertion of an attorney/client privilege by the City Attorney’s Office is nothing more than a sham to cover the criminal acts of others including the City Attorney’s Office. I believe the City Attorney’s Office can’t blanketedly mark all of these documents “Top Secret.” The City Attorney’s Office must review each document and cite legal reasoning/justification why each warrants such a privilege. There is past pattern and practice by the City of Spokane to withhold critical RPS documents from the public and was sanctioned by the courts for violating the state public records act. From the Center for Justice website:
Tim Connor & Rhubarb Sky LLC v. City of Spokane, superior court no. 01-20366-5-8: Public records suit against city for illegal withholding of documents concerning River Park Square. Court found city committed multiple violations of the state public records act and awarded penalties, costs and attorney fees. Center for Justice was co-counsel with Hagens Berman LLC, a major plaintiffs’ class action law firm.
Spokane Research & Defense Fund; Rhubarb Sky LLC v. City of Spokane, court of appeals no. 21729-9 -III: Center for Justice intervened in SRDF’s action for public disclosure against city, which sought documents also withheld from Camas. As co-counsel with Hagens Berman and Towsley, Brain, Stephens PLLC, Center for Justice appealed adverse superior court and appellate court decisions to supreme court arguing that illegally withheld documents were first sought by Tim Connor and Rhubarb Sky. Court reversed unanimously and remanded case to superior court. Case settled in late 2006 with apology from City of Spokane and payment of penalties, costs and attorney fees.
As I expressed in my recent letters to US Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan (See attached copies) as a stakeholder in the Municipal Corporation of the City of Spokane, I am the ultimate client/victim of this $100M RPS bond fraud. Lewis’ work was paid for at taxpayer expense. If in fact the RPS “bailout” is a “done deal” then there is absolutely no reason why the Lewis documents should remain confidential other than concealing the criminal activity of certain complicit parties.
Mayor Mary Verner is now attempting to close the books on the RPS bond fraud. Mayor Verner was quoted by S-R Reporter Jonathan Brunt [July 4, 2008]:
Mayor Mary Verner said a proposed ordinance aimed at preventing financial ordeals similar to the River Park Square deal should put an end to official city discussion of the controversial real estate project.
“With the passage of this ordinance, I would feel that it’s effectively closed,” Verner said last week. . .
Since receiving a stack of documents about the city case against River Park Square in January from the city’s former counsel on the River Park Square matter, Verner had declined to say if she thought the records revealed new information that could put the issue back into court. But last week, Verner said she doesn’t support further legal action involving the partnership between the city and the mall’s developer, the Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review. . .
The city and Cowles settled the main River Park Square case in 2004. Other cases involving the deal lingered until early this year. Verner, a former councilwoman, voted in favor of the 2004 settlement and said last week that nothing she’s seen since has changed her mind that the settlement was the best decision.
I find it incredulous that Mary Verner and Craven flew all the way to Seattle to meet with Lewis for five hours and learned nothing new. I for one based on the totality of the circumstances of the RPS bond fraud will not let Mayor Verner off the hook so easily. I want to read these Lewis documents and determine if there is indeed nothing new here. Yes I understand the rationale to keep such documents in confidence as it would be an impediment for full and frank discussions between the Council and its counsel. I however believe in the RPS matter there are compelling reasons why these documents should be made public that trump any attorney/client privilege and or future litigation that may be asserted in refusing to release them.
As I quoted Spokane residence Dick Adams letter to the editor and Larry Shook in my letter to US Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan:
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Letters to the editor
Secrets got city into trouble
Councilmen Apple and Corker were sent letters from former City Attorney Jim Craven recently. Subject: O. Yale Lewis documents. Craven’s letter is a veiled attempt to intimidate both Corker and Apple. They both had copies of the Lewis documents and knew what was opined. Craven is warning them not to hand out these documents to anyone. The hidden Lewis documents were reported in The Spokesman-Review by staff writer Jonathan Brunt. Brunt is still attempting to obtain the documents through the state public disclosure law.
The City Council should be reminded that clandestine meetings and secrets, like those about the Lewis documents, caused the RPS scandal in the first place. Our city has new RPS secrets again. I would have thought wasting several hundred thousand dollars for hiding public documents from Camas Magazine might have taught our officials at City Hall a lesson about public disclosure and openness in local government. It appears history is about to repeat itself. More RPS secrets. Apparently nothing was learned from past mistakes and reckless spending of taxpayer money.
Didn’t Mayor Verner promise the public her administration would be transparent?
And as expressed by Larry Shook of Camas Magazine to Mr. Adams regarding his LTE:
Thank you very much, Dick. Obviously, the controversy surrounding the Lewis documents goes to the heart of Spokane’s deeply embedded public corruption resulting from the Cowles family’s control of city government. Never was that control made more obvious than in the River Park Square scandal, as discovery in the RPS securities fraud case, the IRS investigation, and Camas reporting showed. This is a perennially terrifying subject to many people, and Mayor Verner appears to have joined the ranks of the terrified. As you know from the meeting you and former Mayor Talbott had with Mayor Verner, much is at stake in exposing how the RPS securities fraud case against the RPS developer was settled. That settlement clearly reveals the Cowles family’s continuing influence over City Hall. I’m very hopeful that the Lewis records will be made public, because I suspect they might shine some light on Spokane’s plight. Best wishes, Larry Shook
The RPS’s contorted and convoluted financial package was the direct result of the RPS developers refusal to give a “letter of credit” backing the $23M HUD loan which was normal practice. This HUD loan was used to leverage the whole RPS redevelopment project. While I have issues with the HUD loan being used in this manner, my chief complaint was that the associated risks were not borne equally and in fact the City’s CBDG money was put in line before any collateral of the developers’ should the deal become insolvent. The RPS fiasco in essence was a gift/conversion of public funds to private entities. I’m outraged and will not excuse this reckless behavior of those responsible who failed to act with due diligence on behalf of the citizens of Spokane. Neither do I wish to subsidize this robbery committed in broad daylight as explained in this WSJ article:
Through history, outrageous financial behavior has been met with outrage. But today Wall Street’s damaging recklessness has been met with near-silence, from a too-tolerant populace, argues James Grant
By JAMES GRANT
July 19, 2008
“Raise less corn and more hell,” Mary Elizabeth Lease harangued Kansas farmers during America’s Populist era, but no such voice cries out today. America’s 21st-century financial victims make no protest against the Federal Reserve’s policy of showering dollars on the people who would seem to need them least. . .
Now began one of the wildest chapters in the history of lending and borrowing. In flush times, our financiers seemingly compete to do the craziest deal. They borrow to the eyes and pay themselves lordly bonuses. Naturally — eventually — they drive themselves, and the economy, into a crisis. And to the scene of this inevitable accident rush the government’s first responders — the Fed, the Treasury or the government-sponsored enterprises — bearing the people’s money. One might suppose that such a recurrent chain of blunders would gall a politically potent segment of the population. That it has evidently failed to do so in 2008 may be the only important unreported fact of this otherwise compulsively documented election season. . .
It is my professional opinion that both elected/appointed City officials, their contracted employees and others are complicit in this bond fraud and the subsequent compounding of the first fraud with the RPS bailout. It is my opinion that former members of the City Attorney’s Office are complicit in this fraud. I would strongly caution that subsequent members of the City Attorney’s Office do not become civilly and criminally liable themselves by compounding these crimes committed by this ongoing criminal/enterprise conspiracy in Spokane by withholding the Lewis documents. In my opinion there is now probable cause to believe that certain crucial information was withheld by City staff and or its contracted employees from the City Council in its deliberations before voting on the RPS “bailout” e.g, Attorney Gary Ceriani’s memo to Attorney Laurel Siddoway, Attorney Mark Schwartz’s letter to the then Mayor John Powers recently released saying Siddoway “emasculated” the City’s fraud case, and now apparently certain information from Lewis was also withheld.
It’s a moot point to seek recovery from myself i.e., suing the City for damages. On the other hand if a conspiracy to commit fraud can be shown was perpetuated by elected/appointed and or contracted employees that the citizens of Spokane put in positions of trust and power with the aid, counsel, or inducements of others, then those complicit have no grant of governmental immunity. All complicit persons are then both personally civilly and criminally liable. As I’ve expressed before based on my read of the IRS report disallowing the tax-exempt status of the first RPS bonds, Camas Magazine reporting/documentation, Attorney Gary Ceriani’s omnibus statement in his civil SEC bond fraud case on behalf of the original institutional bond investors, and other sources, it is my opinion based on my training, education and experience, as a career criminal investigator:
In a series of quasi public/private development projects in Downtown Spokane, there is a clear pattern and practice where “tainted” public financing was used to enrich the pockets of a group of individuals at the expense of the public treasury. . .
The principals of this conspiracy and or its surrogates, have systemically co-opted and or corrupted governmental officials both elected and appointed including the sitting US Attorney for the Eastern District of WA The normal political and governmental controls have failed because of being so thoroughly co-opted and/or corrupted by this incestuous, insidious, and malignant ongoing criminal enterprise.
If the Lewis documents that would evidence such fraud occurred are kept “secret” by those complicit how do WE THE PEOPLE that empower them to govern hold them accountable either civilly, criminally and or at the ballot box?
As a stakeholder in the Municipal Corporation known as the City of Spokane, I demand the Lewis documents be immediately released to me. Accordingly, I hereby formally request that if the City persists in withholding the Lewis documents, I be provided with a formal legal opinion/analysis by the City’s legal staff detailing why these documents are legitimately protected from public disclosure under the doctrine of attorney client privilege and or potential future litigation. As part of this legal opinion I request that every document in the Lewis file be identified. Further, please provide a general description of each document and cite the precise legal analysis that justifies its withholding. I also request that Mayor Verner, as the city’s chief executive officer and an attorney herself, stipulate her agreement with this formal legal opinion. The reason for this request is my belief that O. Yale Lewis, the city’s first RPS special counsel, would not have presented this material to Mayor Verner and requested its release to former elected officials if he believed that his records qualified for legal privilege that made such distribution improper. If the formal legal opinion I request is not immediately forthcoming I will appear before the Council and request the issue of release of the Lewis documents be agendized for a future Council meeting where this can be publicly debated and followed by a vote on the record. If this fails I will consider pursuing release of the Lewis documents via civil litigation, including the assessment of bad faith penalties for their improper withholding. Similarly, I will seek the assistance of the Washington State Bar Association to assess whether the city’s attorneys (including Mayor/attorney Verner and Councilman/attorney Joe Shogan) have breached their professional duties by withholding these documents.
Det. Ron Wright (Retired)
cc: Mayor Mary Verner