Local News

Sitka will stay course on 2008 citizen lawsuit

Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. (Photo: Sawmillcove.com)

The City of Sitka will continue defending a lawsuit brought by two residents in 2008.

The Sitka Assembly met in closed session Wednesday to discuss the litigation. Members unanimously voted, in open session, to direct municipal attorney Theresa Hillhouse to continue with the case.

Jeff Farvour and Mike Litman represent the group Sitkans for Responsible Government. They sued the city four years ago after it twice rejected a citizens’ initiative from the municipal election ballot.

The initiative would have required any disposal of city real estate worth over half-a-million dollars to be approved by voters. That’s already required by current municipal code, except at the Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. The initiative would have removed the park’s exemption.

The Sitka Superior Court upheld the city’s decision not to certify the initiative. Farvour and Litman appealed up to the Alaska Supreme Court and won. And in April, the Supreme Court told the Sitka court to take another look.

Reached for comment Thursday afternoon, Municipal attorney Theresa Hillhouse said she wanted to consult with outside counsel Michael Gatti before briefing reporters on the city’s stance. That could happen Friday morning.

But in court filings from late May, the city laid out its reasons for opposing the Sawmill Cove initiative. Among them, the city argues that the initiative would deal with an appropriation of public assets, which is strictly the purview of the Assembly. The city also says it’s unclear whether the measure is an initiative or a referendum.

But Litman and Farvour want the court to reject part of the city’s argument. In court papers filed Monday, they argue that the Supreme Court said their petition is NOT confusing and misleading.

Attorney Joe Geldhof writes that the defendants “have the temerity to continue arguing that the petition is confusing and misleading and even have the cheek to suggest that the trial court was confused.”

Geldhof says his clients would drop the suit if the city would allow the measure to reach the ballot.

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