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City fined by judge in Public Records Act claim

The City of Mercer Island will be fined $90,560 for what U.S. District Court Judge James Robart has determined is a violation of the Public Records Act in the lawsuit brought by former Assistant City Manager Londi Lindell against her former employer.

The fine represents just six percent of what Lindell had requested. She had asked for a fine in the amount of $1.5 million from the city for withholding documents that she said were important to her case for wrongful dismissal and sexual harassment. The sexual harassment claim is a civil rights matter that must be heard in federal court.

The court was persuaded by Lindell's explanation of how the city's "failure to disclose certain documents caused her personal economic loss and that the loss was foreseeable."  The court stated that the "decision to withhold the documents related to the 'Segle Matter,' constituted a negligent, reckless, wanton or intentional noncompliance with the PRA by the City."

In their response to Lindell's request for the summary judgement regarding the records, the city pointed out that Lindell exacerbated any delays. She had some city-supplied records in her possession for eight months without commenting on their completeness.

Ironically, the order also includes a paragraph that describes that Lindell was the city attorney in 2005 who claimed attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine in denying access to records in another case. She later requested the same records for her own case against the city.

Despite other reports, Lindell was not awarded attorneys fees of $300,000. According to the documents, Lindell has neither asked for nor has received any amount regarding the records case. Lindell did receive $13,000 for attorney fees in a separate matter. The judge has however, warned Lindell  that she must only claim reasonable fees if and when she does file such a request in the PRA case.

A settlement has not been made public in the matter of the wrongful termination and harassment claims brought by Lindell. Parties to the lawsuit are under court order not to discuss the matter.

 

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