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Knight promoted to City Attorney

City Attorney Katie Knight - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
City Attorney Katie Knight
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

The city’s former prosecutor was recently given the nod and promoted to City Attorney after serving as the interim for the past six months.

City Manager Rich Conrad announced his decision to keep Katie Knight as the director of the city’s legal department about two weeks ago. Prior to taking over last February, Knight was the main assistant and lead prosecutor for more than two years. Knight was a member of a private law firm prior to coming to Mercer Island. She land her husband live in Duvall where the couple has two horses.

In recent months, Knight has successfully defended the city in high-profile court cases, negotiated a substantial reimbursement from the city’s insurance provider and worked with the police guild to establish a new labor contract.

Since becoming the acting-City Attorney, the WSU undergraduate who later attended law school at the UW, has seen her fair share of a workload. In addition to the court case over Tent City and bargaining with the police guild, she also had a considerable amount of public records requests from several Islanders, including the Reporter, in how the job became available in the first place. Knight took over the department last February after former City Attorney Bob Sterbank abruptly left his position with a settlement that included $137,500 in pay and a confidentiality agreement.

Although the former city attorney denied it, numerous staff e-mails indicated and City Manager Rich Conrad reiterated that there were performance issues with Sterbank. Former deputy city manager Londi Lindell has defended Sterbank, claiming he was let go for his legal advice involving a personnel investigation at City Hall that took place last fall. After Sterbank’s departure, Knight was immediately called up to perform the duties as the city attorney.

Conrad said Knight had proven her capabilities this past year and was confident she would continue excelling at the job.

“Given her work performance, she has earned this promotion and I look forward to many more years of successful legal services from Katie. We are clearly in capable and trusted hands,” Conrad said.

While defending the city’s temporary use agreement with Tent City, Knight won the denial of a requested injunction that would have prevented the camp from coming to the Island before a scheduled lawsuit takes place in 2009. Knight has expressed confidence in the city’s decision to go with the temporary use agreement rather than establish an ordinance pertaining to roving homeless encampments.

In 2007, Knight was able to convince the city’s insurance to reimburse about $400,000 for environmental clean-up work. Knight’s work on the reimbursement involved the city’s financial responsibility of the clean-up costs regarding a fuel spill at the maintenance shop’s underground tanks.

The undetected spill damaged the soil on the adjacent Honeywell property as well as the city’s lot. While it was determined the city was financially responsible for the damage to its own property, Knight successfully argued that the city’s insurance should pay for the damages to the neighbors lot. Having already paid for the clean-up work, the city is receiving reimbursement checks.

This summer, Knight reached an agreement with the Island police association after months of bargaining for a new labor contract that expired at the end of 2007.

The new contract established a department-specific drug and alcohol policy as well as a procedure for releasing public records of the Island’s officers.

“She has impressed us all in getting the work done at a high level of quality while keeping a very positive and upbeat attitude. What more could one ask,” Conrad said of his city attorney.

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