Two lawsuits against the City of Homer have reached their conclusions. One of the lawsuits reached a settlement while the other went all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court.
The first lawsuit was filed by the City of Homer against resident Michael Kennedy, in an attempt to force him to clean up his Ocean Drive property, which the city claimed had turned into a “salvage yard,” violating zoning laws.
That suit was settled September 3rd, before reaching trial. Under the settlement, Kennedy must sign a confession of judgment and pay part of the city’s attorney’s fees – to the tune of $2,000. In return, the city agrees that his property is substantially cleaned up and agrees to reduce fines against Kennedy.
In an email to KBBI News, Homer City Manager Walt Wrede said the city was pleased with the settlement. He said Kennedy made a significant effort to clean up his property and has made a good faith effort to comply with city zoning laws. Wrede says compliance – and not punishment – was the city’s goal in the case all along.
In the second case, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld a Superior Court ruling that the City of Homer used “good faith and reasonable effort” to comply with a public records request filed by citizen litigant Frank Griswold.
Griswold filed the case against the city in December of 2010. The case stemmed from a failed bond proposition in 2008 that would have financed a new city hall in the Town Square area. Before that year’s election, the City published a brochure, called “Questions and Answers About Town Square and the New City Hall,” that Griswold said violated state campaign laws. The Alaska Public Office Commission agreed with Griswold that the city acted improperly in issuing the brochure and fined the city $400.
Griswold later filed two public records requests, seeking city emails on the subject of the brochure. Wrede eventually fulfilled the records request but Griswold claimed that some of the emails were missing and the city’s technology used to retrieve the emails was inadequate. The city responded that it had purchased new technology to retrieve the emails and then-IT manager Steve Bambakidis spent 40-50 hours working on the project.
The Superior Court ruled in favor of the city, saying Wrede and the Homer City Council used the best technology available and made a good faith effort to fulfill Griswold’s request.
In a decision issued September 13th, the Supreme Court ruled against Griswold’s claims that the city had destroyed public records and had not afforded him a fair hearing. It also sided with the city that the emails withheld fell into the protection of attorney-client privilege. A Superior Court decision that Griswold now owes the city nearly $12,000 in attorney fees was also upheld.