According to Dapcevich’s attorney, Joe Geldhof, Sitka’s former mayor is fighting to defend the city’s charter. As a result, he hasn’t asked for an injunction to block construction of the industrial park dock. Turnagain Marine Construction has the design-build contract for a floating barge, 250’x74′. Work on installation is scheduled for this September, with completion in December, months before the case goes to trial. (GPIP image)

A lawsuit against the City of Sitka brought by a former mayor is going to trial — in a year.

Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens set aside July 16 – 18, 2018 for a bench trial in Dapcevich vs. Sitka.

Downloadable audio.

Attorney Joe Geldhof represented former Sitka mayor Marko Dapcevich during a brief scheduling conference on July 11 in the Sitka trial courts.

Speaking on the phone afterward, Geldhof said that his client is aware that the industrial park dock — which prompted the lawsuit — may be up and running by the time the case is resolved.

KCAW – What does a win mean for your client if it does come to a trial next July?
Geldhof – Well, the real prize here for Mr. Dapcevich, and I think the citizens of Sitka, is that the court makes a declaration that the charter is the charter and it must be followed. It just can’t be jimmied with clever moves.

Dapcevich has not sought an injunction to stop construction of the dock project, which was awarded to Turnagain Marine Construction in October, 2016. Instead, Geldhof says that his client hopes that the court imposes a permanent injunction, requiring the city to obtain competitive bids for all similar projects in the future.

Geldhof believes another upside for Dapcevich is discovery — the process of exchanging documents which will be presented as evidence at trial. Dapcevich’s suit was prompted by the partial denial of a public records request last December. The city’s legal department ruled that much of Dapcevich’s request — for correspondence among city officials, mainly — was protected by attorney-client privilege, and withheld it.

Geldhof says that discovery will force the release of that correspondence.

“The City and Borough will be required to turn over some documentation and the paper trail — the decision-making process — whereby they engaged in this peculiar procurement. Mr. Dapcevich has repeatedly requested that, and it’s been denied to him by the city administrator. So at this point, in the context of litigation, he’s required to receive that information, and he intends to get it, and review it.”

Following discovery, Geldhof says it’s possible that his client may forego a trial, and instead ask the court to make a decision based on the merits of the case. He calls it a “classic public-interest lawsuit.”

Dapcevich’s suit names the City of Sitka, former administrator Mark Gorman, and current mayor Matt Hunter as co-defendants. All three are being represented by Michael Gatti and Megan Sandone with the Anchorage law firm of Jermain, Dunnagan & Owens.

In his answer to the suit, attorney Michael Gatti denies all of Dapcevich’s allegations that the procurement process for the dock was flawed, and asserts that Dapcevich — who now works for an out-of-state company — lacks standing to bring the complaint.

Marko Dapcevich served as mayor of Sitka from 2004 to 2008. He appeared in person at the scheduling conference, but declined to comment.