Category: Courts

City Attorney Davison Signs Brief Demanding Right to Sweep Encampments Without Offering Shelter

By Erica C. Barnett

City attorney Ann Davison announced Monday that the city has signed onto an amicus brief asking the US Supreme Court to overturn a Ninth Circuit District Court ruling that restricted the ability of Grants Pass, a city in southwestern Oregon, to criminalize sleeping in public places. In a statement, Davison said Johnson v. Grants Pass “strips local authority from a complex problem” and denies “local autonomy” to cities like Seattle.

Under a separate Ninth Circuit ruling called Martin v. Boise, cities are not allowed to remove homeless people from public places in most circumstances unless there is shelter available. In the Grants Pass ruling, a panel of three Ninth Circuit judges agreed with lower courts that the city’s anti-camping ordinance, which imposed fines and criminal penalties for sleeping in public and banned homeless people from using items like blankets, cardboard boxes, and pillows, is unconstitutional.

The brief—which was also joined by the National League of Cities, the North Dakota League of Cities, Colorado Springs, San Diego, and about a dozen other cities across the country—argues that by restricting cities’ authority to ban sleeping in public, Martin and Johnson “compel local governments to choose between providing shelter or surrendering public lands to encampments that harm local communities.”

The city of Seattle, in other words, is arguing that Seattle should be able to sweep homeless people without the city having to “choose” to provide them places to go.

Additionally, they are arguing that calling unsheltered people “involuntarily homeless” grants a special status on people who are, in reality, engaging in a voluntary behavior by sleeping outdoors, much as an alcoholic who is caught being drunk in public has chosen to drink of his own volition. (This is from a real Supreme Court case from 1968, whose conclusions many modern addiction experts would probably dispute).

Seattle has its own ban on sleeping in public that allows sweeps in two general situations. In some cases, the city gives people living in an encampment 72 hours’ notice that they have to leave the area, then offers shelter to the people who remain. This, in theory, meets the requirements of Martin—even though, as many advocates for unsheltered people have pointed out, the city’s “offer” may be for shelter that is across town, requires a person to abandon their spouse or partner, or is inappropriate for a person’s behavioral or physical health conditions.*

Many people decline to “accept” these untenable shelter offers, which has caused city to suggest the real problem is people “refusing” shelter, rather than a lack of appropriate shelter and housing. “A 2021 study in Seattle found that offers of shelter were declined 52% of the time,” the brief notes, echoing these perennial claims. “Undoubtedly, sleeping outdoors can afford more freedom and autonomy than congregate sleeping arrangements. But this also shows that, at least for some people sometimes, personal decisions and preferences can play a role in whether someone continues to be unsheltered.”

The brief even suggests that rules banning encampments are like city zoning laws that prohibit certain uses in residential areas, citing a 1974 Supreme Court ruling (on frat houses, of all things) that allowed to establish “zones where family values, youth values, and the blessings of quiet seclusion and clean air make the area a sanctuary for people.” Unsheltered people, according to the brief, “directly undermine these legitimate aims and turn zoning schemes into hollow promises.”

In recent years, it’s become common for the city to exploit a loophole in the rules governing encampment sweeps to remove people and throw away belongings, such as tents and survival gear, without notice. In these case, the justification is that any person or object occupying a public space, including remote areas of public parks, constitutes an “obstruction” to the public’s use or potential use of that space. Earlier this year, a King County Superior Court judge ruled this interpretation of the city’s rules unconstitutional on privacy grounds; Davison immediately appealed that case, and the sweeps continue.

The city’s argument, as expressed in the brief, is a muddle of conflicting perspectives. The brief argues that requiring cities to choose between sweeps and shelter for every homeless person is an unconstitutional imposition; cities already spend hundreds of millions of dollars on homelessness, but the problem is only getting worse, which shows that spending money isn’t going to fix the problem. Since that’s the case, the brief continues, cities should be allowed to sweep encampments using whatever criteria they deem necessary, because encampments “monopolize common spaces like parks and sidewalks” and create “enormous volumes of garbage, human waste, and other health hazards like used needles.”

“A town that is not allowed to keep its sidewalks clear and parks open is not really a town at all. It is just a cluster of people living close together,” the brief concludes.

The brief even suggests that rules banning encampments are like city zoning laws that prohibit certain uses in residential areas, citing a 1974 Supreme Court ruling (on frat houses, of all things) that said cities could establish “zones where family values, youth values, and the blessings of quiet seclusion and clean air make the area a sanctuary for people.” Unsheltered people, according to the brief, “directly undermine these legitimate aims and turn zoning schemes into hollow promises.”

“A town that is not allowed to keep its sidewalks clear and parks open is not really a town at all. It is just a cluster of people living close together,” the brief concludes.

If the Supreme Court takes up the case, it could overturn rules specific to the Ninth District that make it harder for cities to simply sweep homeless people from public places. But even if Seattle wins the right to sweep people with impunity, it won’t change a basic reality: Homeless people don’t stop existing—and needing to sleep, eat, discard trash, and use the restroom— just because cities pass bans on sleeping and deny them access to resources, like trash cans and indoor plumbing, that the rest of us take for granted.

*Other programs exist that do route people to appropriate shelter, services, and housing, but these involve extensive outreach and engagement, and are generally separate from the city’s encampment removals.

City Can Continue “Obstruction” Sweeps for Now; Ex-KCRHA Director Turns In First Work on City Contract

1. Last Friday, a state appeals court issued a ruling staying any enforcement of a King County Superior Court decision finding Seattle’s rules on “obstruction” encampment removals unconstitutional. The city defines an “obstruction” as any encampment, tent, person, or property that is located in virtually any public space, including remote areas of public parks. The stay comes in response to an appeal filed by City Attorney Ann Davison’s office on Friday, and allows the city to continue its practice of no-notice sweeps, which have ramped up dramatically under the Harrell Administration. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case have until August 11 to respond to the city’s appeal.

As we reported last month, two formerly homeless people, Bobby Kitcheon and Candace Ream, sued the city, with the help of the ACLU of Washington, after the city subjected them to repeated sweeps. According to the lawsuit, both Kitcheon and Ream lost all their possessions, including irreplaceable family mementos as well as IDs, insulin and other medications, and food, each time the city arrived to remove their tents from a new location.

In his order, Superior Court Judge David Keenan found that the city’s rule violates people’s privacy and constitutes “cruel punishment” under the state constitution because the city’s definition of “obstruction”—which includes any tent or person sleeping in any area of a public park, for example—”allows the City to move unhoused people who are not actual obstructions, without offering unhoused people shelter.” Under a Ninth Circuit ruling called Martin v. Boise, cities are not allowed to remove homeless people from a location without offering them shelter except in certain circumstances, including when a tent or person is blocking others from using a public space, such as a sidewalk.

The city’s appeal of the superior court ruling rests on the argument that the city’s rule allowing no-notice removals of encampments when they are “obstructions” can’t be “facially” invalid—that is, unenforceable on its face— because the rules can be applied constitutionally; in other words, because there are cases where a tent is actually obstructing the public use of a space, such as a sidewalk, the city is claiming the law can’t be invalid in its entirety.

The city attorney’s office, using outside attorneys, is also arguing that because the two plaintiffs are now housed and were never subject to civil or criminal charges, they lack standing to challenge the city. It’s worth noting that as a matter of practice, the city does not fine or charge people for sleeping in public; instead, it conducts sweeps.

Additionally, according to the city’s appeal, “even if respondents had standing, Mr. Kitcheon and Ms. Ream were not involuntarily homeless because they were repeatedly offered shelter by the City and voluntarily left City-funded shelter.” As we have reported many times, people often decline shelter or leave the shelter beds the city assigns them because the beds are not appropriate for their circumstances; in Kitcheon’s case, according to the lawsuit, the only shelters that were generally available were single-gender and would have forced him and his wife to separate.

Davison’s office also argued that people have no right to privacy inside their tents when those tents are located on public property. PubliCola is not a lawyer, but this does raise an obvious question about how far the city’s right to invade people’s personal space extends.

Over the weekend, for example, housed people camped out along Lake Washington during Seafair; would Davison claim a right to send workers to barge into those tents and seize everything inside them, since they are, according to the city’s own rules, obstructing the use of public space? Or does the city’s “heightened interest in protecting the health and safety of the community (both housed and unhoused) and accessible use of public property and rights of way” only apply when the people camped out in public space have nowhere else to go?

Page two of the four-page document representing 10 hours, or $2,500, of Dones’ $60,000 contract with the city.

2. PubliCola has received the second of 10 “deliverables” provided by former KCRHA director Marc Dones as part of their ongoing, $60,000 contract with the city of Seattle, which involves researching how Medicaid funding might be used to pay for homeless services.

The document, which—according to Dones’ contract—represents 10 hours’ worth of work, is a spare timeline and 375-word summary of the work Dones is supposed to do, including “framework development,” interviews with stakeholders, and “iterating the framework report” with Harrell’s office. The city is paying Dones through December.

As we’ve reported, Dones left the KCRHA at a time when many agency staffers and government officials with oversight authority over the agency had begun to express a lack of confidence in their leadership. The contract is worth three months’ salary for Dones—the minimum they would have been likely to receive in severance if they had been fired instead of leaving voluntarily.

City’s Primary Tool for Sweeping Encampments Without Notice Ruled Unconstitutional

Two after-the-fact notices after recent back-to-back sweeps in Occidental Park

By Erica C. Barnett

King County Superior Court Judge David Keenan ruled against the city of Seattle this week in a case brought by two unsheltered Seattle residents, Bobby Kitcheon and Candace Ream, whose tents were repeatedly swept by the city without notice.

In his ruling, Keenan found that although the city has the right to remove tents and other items without notice in some circumstances—for example, if they pose an imminent safety risk or completely block a sidewalk—the city has used an overbroad definition of “obstruction” to unconstitutionally invade people’s homes, destroy their property, and move them from place to place without offering shelter or other services. This invasion of privacy, Keenan wrote, is “no different than if one returned to their single-family stick-built house in any Seattle neighborhood after a personal errand to find that it had vanished.”

“Denying [the plaintiffs] any protected privacy in their homes would be yet one more permission slip to consider them not fully human,” Keenan added.

The ruling could force Seattle to narrow its rules for encampment removals so that they only apply to actual obstructions. (The city provides notice, information about available shelter beds, and property storage for some encampment removals, but those aren’t at issue in this lawsuit.)

“Denying [the plaintiffs] any protected privacy in their homes would be yet one more permission slip to consider them not fully human.”

Under rules established in 2017, the city can remove any “people, tents, personal property, garbage, debris or other objects related to an encampment” if those items are in a public park or on the sidewalk, on the grounds that they inherently constitute an “obstruction” to other people’s use of that public space. The city has routinely used this rule to justify sweeping encampments whether or not they actually obstruct anything—such as a handful of tents located in a secluded, heavily forested area of a public park.

“Since the definition was expanded in 2017, there has been a dramatic increase in obstruction removals, versus encampment removals that were subject to advance notice,” said Jazmyn Clark, director of the ACLU-WA’s Smart Justice Policy Program.

Removals that rely on this overbroad definition of “obstruction” constitute “cruel punishment” under the Washington state constitution, Keenan wrote, “because that definition allows the City to move unhoused people who are not actual obstructions, without offering unhoused people shelter.”

“There were circumstances in which unhoused folks would leave to, say, attend a doctor’s appointment, come back, and their entire home is just gone,” Clark said. “That is so disruptive and destabilizing— and then to have that practice continue over and over again; it just continually harms the folks that are most vulnerable because they have such limited resources to try to be able to start fresh.”

The case involved two unsheltered people who repeatedly lost all their belongings during no-notice sweeps. One of the plaintiffs, Bobby Kitcheon, described going through at least eight sweeps in less than four months, losing his wedding ring, his work boots, family heirlooms, and medication,  along with the tent and camping equipment he shared with his wife. Kitcheon said losing his work boots and equipment made it impossible for him to work, and that he and his wife now “feel like they have to be on constant alert and wake up every time someone walks by their home for fear that it is the City about to threaten them with arrest and destroy their property,” according to the lawsuit.

Keenan’s summary judgment is not the end of the road for the lawsuit, which is currently scheduled for trial in September. City Attorney Ann Davison could also choose to appeal the summary judgment ruling. In response to questions, a spokesperson for Davison’s office said, “at this point, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office is evaluating next steps.”

City Appeals Graffiti Injunction, Council Restricts Public Comment, Candidates Include Lots of Landlords

1. City Attorney Ann Davison announced Wednesday that her office will appeal an injunction that prevents Seattle police from arresting people for violations of the city’s anti-graffiti law. However, given the broad sweep of the injunction—and the judge’s rejection of an earlier motion to dismiss the case—the city’s appeal seems unlikely to succeed.

Last month, a federal judge, Marsha Pechman, issued a ruling in a a case brought by four people who were arrested in 2021 for writing messages including “peaceful protest” in sidewalk chalk on concrete barricades set up outside the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct. In her ruling, Pechman found that that the four plaintiffs were likely to prove that the ordinance “violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by being both vague and overbroad.” One week later, Pechman rejected the city’s motion to dismiss the case.

In her June 23 order declining to dismiss the case, Pechman said the city failed to prove that the four protesters lack standing to file a claim under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. In addition to the reasons laid out in the original injunction, Pechman rejected the city’s claim that the police who made the arrests had qualified immunity because they believed the arrests were allowed under the ordinance’s “ban on drawing.”

“We have to have the ability to arrest people for unwanted graffiti. If we lose the lawsuit, we go back to the drawing board and figure out what the deficiencies are in the law, and we fix it or remedy it.”—Mayor Bruce Harrell

“The injunction restricts the City from appropriately addressing the growing problem of graffiti,” Davison said in a statement announcing the appeal. “The victims of graffiti—the public as a whole, business owners, property owners, and others – must have a voice. Graffiti is a crime that has an enormously negative and costly impact.”

During an event last week announcing details of his downtown revitalization plan, Mayor Bruce Harrell told PubliCola, “We have to have the ability to arrest people for unwanted graffiti. …. If we lose the lawsuit, we go back to the drawing board and figure out what the deficiencies are in the law, and we fix it or remedy it.”

2. Next week, the Seattle city council will consider new rules for council committee meetings that restrict public comment explicitly to items on a meeting’s agenda, unless the council member chairing the meeting specifies that people can comment on additional items or issues and provides “prior notice” that additional comments will be allowed as part of the meeting agenda.

Over the past several years, public comments at city council meetings have broadened in scope, as more people have shown up to committee meetings to talk about issues that fall under the committee’s purview (addressing the public safety committee about police brutality, or the sustainability committee about climate change), even when there isn’t a specific item about that topic on the agenda. Under the new rules, a committee chair or the council president will be able to cut a speaker off if they go off-topic.

Of the two dozen or so homeowners with active city council campaigns, seven are landlords.

The new rules also spell out more clearly what kind of conduct will get someone kicked out of a meeting, including “threats, personal attacks, or the use of racial, misogynistic, or gender-related slurs, or abusive language or other disorderly conduct,” and give the committee chair sole discretion to decide whether a person is violating the rules.

3. Although the majority of Seattle residents are now renters, the City Council has long been the purview of the property-owning class—people who either come onto the council with property and wealth, or are able to buy property once they start making a council salary.

This year’s council candidates reflect that trend—a large majority of the 30 candidates with active campaigns are homeowners, and only about eight are renters who do not own any property, such as a house that they don’t live in. (These numbers are approximate because state election disclosure records do not require reporting of property owned out of state.)

Of the two dozen or so homeowners with active campaigns, seven are landlords who earn a portion of their income renting residential property. This group includes District 4 candidate Kenneth Wilson, who owns a large coastal property in Florida; District 4 candidate Maritza Rivera, who rents out a Seattle townhouse; and District 5 candidate Cathy Moore, who owns a house in Burien. Most of the landlord candidates make less than $30,000 a year from their rental properties.

The one exception: District 7 candidate (and Piroshky Piroshky owner) Olga Sagan, who reported making between $90,000 and $159,998 last year from her two rental properties in Seattle.

Candidates’ financial disclosure forms and campaign finance data are available at the Public Disclosure Commission.

Federal Judge Issues Injunction Barring Seattle from Enforcing Its Anti-Graffiti Law

By Erica C. Barnett

US District Court Judge Marsha Pechman issued an injunction yesterday barring the city of Seattle from enforcing its ban on graffiti in a case stemming from protests against police violence in early 2021. In the order, Pechman writes that the four plaintiffs—who wrote in “ordinary charcoal and children’s sidewalk chalk: on a temporary concrete wall outside SPD’s East Precinct—were “likely to prove that the Ordinance… violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by being both vague and overbroad.”

The chalked messages included, among other slogans critical of police, “peaceful protest,” “Fuck SPD,” and “BLM.”

Seattle’s municipal code says a person is guilty of “property destruction,” a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail, if “he or she… [w]rites, paints, or draws any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any real or personal property owned by any other person.”

On Wednesday evening, the city and plaintiffs agreed that the injunction only applies to the part of the property destruction law that pertains to graffiti.

In her injunction, Pechman wrote that the current law threatens people with arrest for exercising their right to free speech under the guise of “preventing even temporary visual blight,” as the city attorney’s office wrote in its defense of the law.

“While there is allegedly a policy not to arrest children drawing rainbows on the sidewalk, the Ordinance itself allows the police to do just that and to arrest those who might scribe something that irks an individual officer.”

“On its face, the Ordinance sweeps so broadly that it criminalizes innocuous drawings (from a child’s drawing of a mermaid to pro-police messages written by the Seattle Police Foundation that can hardly be said to constitute ‘visual blight’ and which would naturally wash away in the next rain storm,” Pechman wrote. As written, Pechman continued, the law could allow police to arrest people for “attaching a streamer to someone else’s bicycle or writing a note of ‘hello’ on a classmate’s notebook without express permission.”

“While there is allegedly a policy not to arrest children drawing rainbows on the sidewalk, the Ordinance itself allows the police to do just that and to arrest those who might scribe something that irks an individual officer,” Pechman wrote. In other words, the law as written allows officers to arbitrarily decide what speech is illegal based on their own personal views.

“Although the Ordinance also criminalizes ‘property destruction,’ it equally targets speech. As such, it has a close enough nexus to expression that it poses a real and substantial threat of censorship.”

The lawsuit was filed by four people who were arrested outside the East Precinct in Capitol Hill on January 1, 2021, a time when the precinct was surrounded by large temporary walls made of concrete “eco-blocks.” According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs—Derek Tucson, Robin Snyder, Monsieree de Castro, and Erik Moya-Delgado—were arrested in retaliation for criticizing SPD, in violation of their First and Fourteenth amendment rights protecting free speech and due process.

The lawsuit gives several examples in which the police department has encouraged and even participated in sidewalk-chalk events when they approved of the message.

For example, police participated in a Seattle Police Foundation event in 2017 where supporters chalked “WE ♥ SPD” in huge letters on public sidewalks, and chalked pro-police messages such as “LIBERTY IS ESSENTIAL” and “DEFEND SPD” on the ground outside City Hall during a “Back the Blue” rally in July 2020. 

Additionally, in 2015, SPD’s official Twitter advised a comedy festival organizer that “the use of sidewalk chalk doesn’t constitute graffiti.”

Mayor Bruce Harrell has focused heavily on graffiti as part of his plan to “beautify Seattle,” promising in 2022 to “increase enforcement of graffiti offenses, striking a balance with larger penalties for the most prolific taggers and expanded diversion options for low-level offenders.” That year, the city arrested two “prolific” taggers who they accused of causing more than $300,000 in property damage under a separate “malicious mischief” law that remains in effect.

Harrell also attempted, unsuccessfully, to add more than $1 million last year’s budget to set up new teams of city employees to respond to graffiti.

In a statement, Harrell’s office said he “remains committed to swift and sustainable action to prevent and remove graffiti and property damage through a comprehensive One Seattle Graffiti Plan—focused on a holistic strategy to break the cycle of tagging and abatement through law enforcement, community engagement, artistic expression, and collaboration. We will continue to activate our neighborhoods with positive, community-led art and abate actively harmful and malicious tagging including hate speech.”

City Attorney Ann Davison’s office said they would file a motion asking Pechman for an expedited reconsideration of her order, and that the office “will not be filing property destruction charges under this law for the time being.”

SPD issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying they have no choice but to abide by the injunction. “We know, as evidenced by the thousands of calls for service we receive each year reporting acts of vandalism and other forms of property damage that property damage is, in fact, a crime that is of significance to community members,” the statement said.


Harrell Vows to Pass New Drug Law, Creates Work Group to Find Solutions to the Fentanyl Crisis

Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis takes questions from reporters after yesterday’s press conference

By Andrew Engelson

Yesterday, following last week’s city council vote rejecting a bill that would have given City Attorney Ann Davison the power to prosecute people for drug possession and public use, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the creation of a 24-member “Fentanyl Systems Work Group” tasked with finding and implementing solutions to the opioid overdose crisis. In King County, 462 people have died of overdoses involving opioids this year alone.

In a press conference at city hall on Monday, Harrell said he was committed to passing a new drug possession and public drug use ordinance that would align the Seattle Municipal Code with a statewide “Blake fix” law passed by the legislature in May, which set drug possession and public use as gross misdemeanors. 

“We will pass a law that allows our department to make arrests,” Harrell said. “But we will do that with compassion, to protect people when we have to.” Talking about how the war on drugs harmed his own community, Harrell wiped away tears and briefly stepped away from the podium.

“I believe in my heart, the people that are using drugs, many of them are sick,” Harrell said. “They’re not healthy. We’re not going to go out and fill our jails with sick people.”

The Seattle Police Department is already authorized to arrest people for drug use and possession under the statewide law, although King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion would have to agree to prosecute those cases, which she has said she will not do. Currently, few people are arrested or prosecuted under existing felony drug laws.

When pre-booking or pre-trial diversion don’t work or aren’t appropriate, Councilmember Andrew Lewis said he would support a new therapeutic court “where there would basically be a court-supervised check-in treatment regime—which is basically King County Drug Court.

The work group will include municipal judges (including former community court judge Damon Shadid), several city council members, Davison, Police Chief Adrian Diaz, department directors, and representatives from service providers, diversion programs, community groups, and racial justice organizations.

Councilmember Sara Nelson, one of the sponsors of the drug possession bill, was adamant that the council pass a law soon. “I don’t want to see any infringement upon the city attorney’s prosecutorial discretion,” Nelson said after the press conference. “And I don’t want anybody telling the mayor what he’s going to do, what he’s going to direct his officers to do.”

Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who cast the deciding “no” vote last week, has said that in order to vote for a new bill granting the city attorney new authority to prosecute misdemeanor drug crimes, he wants to see a replacement for community court, more funding for prefiling and pre-arrest diversion programs like LEAD, and other “necessary treatment and diversion programs.”

“I’m looking forward to hearing from everybody,” Lewis told PubliCola. “We’ve got two judges who are on this task force. We’ve got the city attorney’s office on this task force. I think that we can work through whatever differences we have to get a plan in place to have a successor therapeutic court.”

Community court has been the primary alternative to Seattle’s mainstream municipal court system since 2020. Though Lewis said he’s committed to finding a replacement for the court, he added that he’s actually more invested in diversion programs that target people before they get arrested in charged, such as LEAD for adults and Community Passageways for youth.

Lisa Daugaard, co-director of Purpose Dignity Action (formerly the Public Defender Association), which runs the pioneering pre-booking diversion program LEAD, said the debate over adding drug possession and public use to Seattle’s municipal code is something of a distraction, since diversion programs have existed as an option for more than a decade and will continue to.

“Since 2012,” Daugaard said, “we’ve had a framework in Seattle where even when there is legal authority to arrest, book someone into jail, refer them to prosecution, and prosecute them, our local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors have very often chosen not to do that, in preference for a pre-booking diversion framework where people get a warm handoff to harm reduction-based care.”

Daugaard says arrests for drug-related offenses in Seattle have plummeted in the past two decades and aren’t likely to increase. “The incidence of stops, searches, and arrests for drug crime fell over a decade from being at the very top of the reasons that people have course of contact with law enforcement to outside the top ten,” she said. “And that was not an accident.”

When pre-booking or pre-trial diversion don’t work or aren’t appropriate, Lewis said he would support a new therapeutic court “where there would basically be a court-supervised check-in treatment regime—which is basically King County Drug Court.” Participants in drug court, which lasts a minimum of 10 months, must check in frequently, stay sober, and meet other court-mandated requirements in order to have their charges dropped.

“We know that pre-file diversions are probably best for the overwhelming majority of people,” Lewis said. “But there is a small group of people where those interventions have not been successful, and they need a little bit more accountability and a little bit more structure. And that can definitely be provided by a therapeutic court.”

Daugaard says the more critical issue is finding sufficient funds for recovery services for people with substance use disorder, especially those without shelter. Though one selling point of the state’s drug possession bill was supposed to be an increase in funding for services and treatment, Daugaard says what the state actually provided is insufficient to deal with the scope of the problem statewide.

“The population in each region that it can serve is a small fraction of the total number of people who are using drugs in a way that could either be life threatening or problematic for their stability.” Addressing drug use in Seattle will require an injection of local resources beyond what the city has provided so far—something the council will have to grapple with during its annual budget deliberations this coming fall.

Community Court Is Dead. What Comes Next?

Source: City attorney’s office 2022 4th-quarter report

By Erica C. Barnett

Before casting the deciding vote to reject a bill that would have given City Attorney Ann Davison new power to prosecute people for using or possessing drugs, Councilmember Andrew Lewis said he was swayed to vote no by Davison’s unilateral decision to stop sending cases to community court, a therapeutic court that allows people accused of specific low-level misdemeanors to access services and life-skills classes in lieu of prosecution.

Davison’s office has argued that community court and its onetime presiding judge, Damon Shadid, have been too lenient on low-level defendants, allowing people to elude charges by attending a single online life-skills class. Some service providers have actually echoed this complaint, arguing that the court does too little to get people into meaningful services like addiction treatment and job assistance programs.

Proponents of community court, including Shadid and the King County Department of Public Defense (DPD), say community court graduates were less likely to reoffend (one measure of success) than people who go through mainstream court, and that the court offered a vital alternative to prosecution and incarceration, which clog up court dockets and put more pressure on the understaffed downtown jail.

“Community Court was a collaborative effort to reduce the harm of the system and instead connect people charged with nonviolent misdemeanor offenses to services,” DPD director Anita Khandelwal said after Davison announced her decision. “Nonetheless, the Seattle City Attorney … seeks to push push people deeper into a criminal legal carceral system that is expensive, deadly, and deeply racially disproportionate.”

Lewis, a former assistant city attorney, has said he will vote for a future version of Davison’s legislation if and when the city comes up with an alternative, or “successor,” to community court that includes access to services like addiction treatment for people who participate. So far, Lewis—who’s up for reelection this year—has outlined no specific plan, timeline, or proposal for what the new court would look like and who would be eligible.

In this context, the debate over Seattle’s now-defunct community court is still highly relevant. If the whole concept is doomed to failure, as Davison has suggested, the solution might be some combination of expanded pre-trial diversion programs and prosecution, which Davison’s office maintains the Seattle Municipal Court is better equipped to handle now that one judge (Shadid) has been “freed up” to hear mainstream cases. If it was a success, as DPD maintains, a new court might look more like community court 4.0, perhaps with more requirements—Davison’s office bristled at Shadid’s elimination of a community-service mandate—and a more punitive prosecute-and-jail track for people who fail to engage after signing up for the program.

The City Attorney’s Perspective

In her letter to the city council announcing the city’s withdrawal from community court, the city attorney’s criminal division chief, Natalie Walton-Anderson, said community court had an extremely low completion rate, with just a 22 percent “graduation” rate among defendants referred to the court. This, the city attorney’s office argued, has led over time to “a huge volume of unresolved and unaccounted for cases”—growing from a handful in August 2020, when the court was launched, to more than 1,500 as of last September.

“Prosecutors, judges and defense sitting in empty courtrooms is extremely costly, not just in staff time but in opportunity cost,” a spokeswoman for the city attorney said. “There are many more effective uses of this staff time. It also imposes a public cost—if there is no effective response to repeat criminal activity then the public pays through reduced safety and increased victimization.”

This backlog, Walton-Anderson argued, is the result of people failing to engage in court by showing up for hearings or complying with court requirements, even though “most participants only had to participate in an assessment with a pre-trial service counselor and attend a 90-minute life skills class.”

“Prosecutors, judges and defense sitting in empty courtrooms is extremely costly, not just in staff time but in opportunity cost,” a spokeswoman for Davison, Marina Yudodik, told PubliCola. “There are many more effective uses of this staff time. It also imposes a public cost—if there is no effective response to repeat criminal activity then the public pays through reduced safety and increased victimization.”

Community court—which excludes anyone accused of serious misdemeanors, such as stalking, harassment, and motor vehicle offenses—has three tiers for engagement, ranging from a 14-day program that includes the online life-skills class and information about available services to a 45-day program that includes mandatory engagement in services assigned by the court. According to Seattle Municipal Court data, Tier 1 defendants—the lowest level of engagement—account for fewer than half of those who enter community court, and there are about the same number of Tier 3 defendants as Tier 1.

But even among people who do engage with services, Davison’s office argues, the majority only access items to help with their immediate needs, rather than ongoing services like drug treatment or job training. According to community court records, in the court’s first 16 months, 31 participants accessed drug treatment, including medication-assisted treatment with suboxone—less than a third of the number referred to treatment services. In contrast, 214 people received bus tickets, 132 got clothing, and 166 accepted food bags.

In addition, the city attorney’s office argues, community court has is open to people who are accused of “significant criminal acts,” and does not screen out people with “serious criminal histories,” including in other states. In her letter, Walton-Anderson gives several examples of cases that her office believes are “inappropriate” for community court, either because they’ve committed more serious crimes in the past or because their specific cases are more serious than their charges indicate.

The letter provides four examples of “inappropriate cases and individuals” that ended up in community court, including one man who had several felony cases pending in King County Superior Court who went on to carjack a vehicle with a child inside; one man who was charged with multiple felonies while in community court but still graduated; and another man who committed multiple misdemeanors and felonies while his cases were pending in community court.

In her letter, Walton-Anderson said the office plans “to dismiss a significant number of cases that were filed prior to January 1, 2022” to clear out the community court docket, and the city attorney’s office has said it plans to send more cases into pre-trial diversion, where appropriate, while routing other cases to mainstream municipal court. In a statement about her decision to stop sending cases to community court, Davison noted that people who participate in pre-filing diversion are less likely to reoffend than those referred to community court.

The city’s existing pre-filing diversion programs are aimed at people under 25, not the older adults who commit a large and growing number of drug-related crimes. Other programs, such as the longstanding program now called Let Everyone Advance with Dignity (LEAD), serve older adults, including those with significant behavioral health challenges and extensive criminal justice involvement, but LEAD is a pre-booking program separate from the pre-filing programs Walton-Anderson referred to in her letter.

Recently, the CAO did sign new pre-filing diversion contracts with several nonprofit groups, including the Urban League, the LGBTQ+ Center (formerly Gay City), and Unified Outreach, an arts program for at-risk youth that is expanding to serve adults. The city council provided $750,000 for expanding diversion to people 25 and older in 2021, but—after a protracted battle with Davison in 2021—moved the funding from the city attorney’s office to the Human Services Department, which spent more than a year analyzing potential diversion strategies. During this time, the funding sat unspent for “many months,” Davison spokeswoman Yudodik said.

These programs, once they’re up and running, will still be aimed at people who are fairly high-functioning—excluding, for example, those who are in active fentanyl addiction and need more services than a light-touch diversion program can provide.

Source: City attorney’s office letter, May 26, 2023

The Public Defenders’ Perspective

Community court has many defenders, including the attorneys who represent clients accused of low-level misdemeanor crimes.

DPD director Khandelwal recently told PubliCola that “if the CAO opts for traditional prosecution, we expect we’ll see more dismissals. This means that more people will churn through a costly and ineffective system and will be harmed and destabilized in the process.” Data from the city attorney shows that in 2022, municipal court judges dismissed nearly 800 cases out of 5,700 filed by the city attorney’s office.

Advocates for community court have also argued that criminalizing low-level crimes, and jailing people who would have been eligible for community court, will only destabilize defendants with major challenges that contribute to their criminal activity, such as mental illness, addiction, and homelessness.

“We have been able to hook people up with housing, with inpatient treatment, with mental health services, with Apple Care [Medicaid] insurance, right there at the court,” Shadid told PubliCola last year. “I just think this way is proven to have more positive effects for our community than putting people in jail, destabilizing them, making them lose their services, and then releasing them back into the community with less connections to services than they had when they entered.”

In her letter,  Walton-Anderson provided several examples intended to demonstrate that community court doesn’t work, and that eliminating the court would give the city attorney the ability to prosecute people who cause harm. However, it’s debatable whether the cases she picked as examples would have gone differently if community court did not exist.

For example, the letter describes Ryan, who was accused of theft and property damage. After opting in to community court, he committed a felony by attempting to steal a car that had a child inside. However, both of Ryan’s charges stemmed from arrests in 2021 for which he was booked and quickly released, long before he opted in to community court last year. Both of those cases were dismissed for lack of proof. Ryan has been in jail on the felony charge since last May in lieu of $350,000 bail.

It would be one thing if this was unique to community court, but failure to appear is extremely common across all parts of the municipal court system. Scott Lindsay, now Davison’s deputy city attorney and a vocal opponent of community court, estimated in a 2019 report for the Downtown Seattle Association that around 65 percent of people failed to appear at their initial court hearing.

In another case, William racked up a large number of shoplifting misdemeanors before his 2020 referral to community court. The jail repeatedly released him directly into residential treatment for his substance use disorder, but he left each time before finishing. The reason William’s cases were dismissed, though, was a separate plea deal with the King County prosecutor on a felony case, not his failure to participate in community court or treatment. Additionally, William is on the “high utilizers” list Davison categorically excluded from community court more than a year ago, and has been ineligible for community court since then.

Walton-Anderson’s letter also cites David, a man who was arrested repeatedly for stealing from a store in North Seattle and “graduated” from community court in 2022, “having completed only the 90 minute life skills class to resolve all [nine] cases” from 2020. In fact, according to court records, David had been in a one-year residential treatment program for almost two months and “making great progress,” according to his probation officer, when he graduated from community court—precisely the kind of outcome the city attorney’s office has said it hopes to see. By the time David reoffended last August, he was already ineligible for community court because he, like William, was on Davison’s high-utilizers list.

Advocates for community court also dispute some of the statistics the city attorney uses to claim the court wasn’t working. For example, the office has frequently noted that community court has a low completion level—about 78 percent of people who opt in to the court don’t complete it. However, as Judge Shadid has pointed out, the low “graduation” rate stems from the fact that a high percentage of community court participants fail to appear at initial hearings, often because they are homeless.

It would be one thing if this was unique to community court, but failure to appear is extremely common across all parts of the municipal court system. Scott Lindsay, now Davison’s deputy city attorney and a vocal opponent of community court, estimated in a 2019 report for the Downtown Seattle Association that around 65 percent of people failed to appear at their initial court hearings. The subtitle for the report, which preceded the most recent iteration of community court, was “Declines, Delays, And Dismissals – Why Most Seattle Misdemeanor Cases Never Get Resolved And The Impacts On Public Safety.”

The city attorney’s office has pointed to higher recidivism rates among people who opt in to community court compared to pre-trial diversion programs that have more requirements, like the LGBTQ+ Center’s online Access to Change program for young adults accused of certain domestic violence crimes. However, people who get referred into pretrial diversion are a specific subset of defendants who the city attorney’s office believes are likely to succeed in diversion programs that offer a “light touch”—young people with minimal prior criminal involvement who generally do not face the same challenges as older community court defendants, like chronic homelessness, fentanyl addiction, and severe mental illness. They just aren’t the same group of people.

Community court is gone, for now, and its replacement is now in the city’s hands. Both Lewis and Davison have expressed support for expanded use of pre-trial diversion programs for the higher-functioning people who qualify, and continuing or expanding LEAD, an evidence-based program that provides case management and services to people with high levels of criminal legal involvement.

Even with those programs, both Davison’s office and the municipal court will likely be inundated with new low-level cases, which could lead to larger backlogs and more dismissals. Currently, according to records compiled by municipal court staffers, the court has almost 2,400 cases from 2022 that are still pending, along with nearly 2,000 so far in 2023. Adding cases that would have gone to community court to this pile would only increase the backlog. In 2019, for example, nearly 3,000 cases were filed that would have been eligible for community court, if community court had existed at the time.

Last year, Davison’s office declined fewer than 60 cases using pre-filing diversion programs—a small fraction of the number that will need to be diverted into programs that have limited capacity in order to avoid an even greater backlog. The city—and Lewis in particular—will have to be creative and determined if it wants to avoid the very situation Davison decried during her election campaign.

Council Votes Down Drug Bill, But the Debate Over Criminalization Isn’t Over

Council member (and swing vote) Andrew Lewis; screenshot from Seattle Channel recording

By Erica C. Barnett

After a tense, emotional meeting Tuesday, the Seattle City Council voted 5-4 to reject legislation proposed by City Attorney Ann Davison that would have empowered Davison to prosecute Seattle residents for simple drug use and possession.

The bill, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen, would have incorporated most of a new state law making drug use and possession a gross misdemeanor into the city’s municipal code. The state legislature changed the law this year after the state supreme court overturned the state’s felony drug possession law in a decision called Washington v. Blake.

The swing vote was Andrew Lewis, a former assistant city attorney who represents downtown Seattle and is up for reelection this year. On Tuesday, Lewis said he had planned on voting for the bill, but changed his mind after Davison abruptly and unilaterally announced the city would no longer participate in community court, a therapeutic court that did not require people to plead guilty of a crime to participate.

Lewis’ vote, he said, came down to the fact that he didn’t believe Davison would use the law judiciously after she effectively eliminated the city’s only therapeutic court.

“What it really came down to was that I don’t have any guarantee right now, with these misdemeanors, that jail isn’t going to be the primary remedy that’s sought to enforce them” in the absence of community court, Councilmember Andrew Lewis said. “”This infrastructure has to be in place, or at least there has to be a commitment or an outline for what we are going to do, and I ultimately didn’t feel comfortable giving that authority without that.”

“I came out here on the dais today fully prepared to vote for this measure,” Lewis said. “I am not necessarily opposed to incorporating the statute into our [city code], and I was prepared to do this. I think it is generally proper for us to do it. But with the ending of community court, without any additional process, I just can’t do it today.”

On Wednesday, Lewis told PubliCola that what his vote “really came down to was that I don’t have any guarantee right now, with these misdemeanors, that jail isn’t going to be the primary remedy that’s sought to enforce them” in the absence of community court. “It doesn’t exist now, but maybe we could make a successor court” to community court, he said.  “This infrastructure has to be in place, or at least there has to be a commitment or an outline for what we are going to do, and I ultimately didn’t feel comfortable giving that authority without that.”

This afternoon, Lewis announced he would propose a path toward passing a version of Davison’s law, after working to develop a “successor court” to community court, develop and fund treatment-based pre-filing diversion, working “to scale and deploy” an evidence-based response to fentanyl use in Seattle, and “finally, after creating those necessary pathways for treatment and diversion, propose legislation making the Seattle Municipal Code consistent with State Law on possession and public use.”

Tensions were high in council chambers on Tuesday, as dozens of public commenters opposed to the law expressed their grievances with the council in general, and Nelson—who owns Fremont Brewing, a brewery and bar, with her husband—in particular.

“We all know that the Seattle Police Department will not be investigating, arresting, and charging anyone who is doing lines of coke in the bathroom of the Fremont Brewery,” Molly Gilbert, head of the union representing King County Department of Public Defense employees, said. “You are literally a drug dealer!” another commenter quipped.

Others responded to claims that the proposal was not tantamount to a “drug war,” because it would only make drug use and possession a misdemeanor, by telling the council how their own lives were derailed by misdemeanor drug convictions. Liletha Williams, one of the last people to speak, testified that her misdemeanor convictions in the 1990s “destroyed my life.”

“I’m 62 and I don’t have any retirement,” Williams said. “I have to work. I’m sick. I can’t have surgery because I can’t miss work. This is all because of my drug addiction in 1990.”

Moments after listening to this testimony, Nelson said her legislation had nothing in common with the drug war of the 1990s.

“I believe that equating this legislation to the war on drugs is frankly to diminish and minimize the damages and the heinousness of that stain on our history,” Nelson said. “Those were felonies. People were thrown into jail for years on felony charges having to do primarily with cannabis and coke and crack and heroin, etc. We are talking [about creating a] gross misdemeanor to address the most potent and dangerous drug to hit our streets, ever.”

Juarez—who briefly put the meeting into recess after people objected to her proposal to end public comment before everyone had spoken—also described fentanyl as a uniquely deadly and dangerous new drug.

“Let me be clear,” Juarez said, “fentanyl is poison. The effects are different and more deadly than than we have ever witnessed with other dangerous drugs like cocaine or heroin. There is no such thing as a functioning fentanyl user. You either have treatment or you die. And you die soon.”

In fact, fentanyl has been legally manufactured and prescribed in the US since the 1960s for long-term pain management and is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines, along with many other potentially addictive drugs. (Nor—despite frequent claims to the contrary—can people get high or overdose from secondhand fentanyl vapor, according to the Seattle/King County Department of Public Health.)

“Let me be clear,” Council President Debora Juarez said, “fentanyl is poison. The effects are different and more deadly than than we have ever witnessed with other dangerous drugs like cocaine or heroin. There is no such thing as a functioning fentanyl user. You either have treatment or you die. And you die soon.”

So what happens now? As it has since May, the new state law applies in Seattle, meaning that drug use and possession are both illegal. (This is true despite a false claim from Davison that “Seattle will now be the only municipality in the State of Washington where it is legal to use hard drugs in public.”). Seattle Police Department officers retain their existing authority to arrest people under the state law, and King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion retains her existing authority to prosecute people for misdemeanor drug use and possession. And Davison can continue prosecuting misdemeanors related to drug use, such as shoplifting and trespassing—something that has already been keeping her busy in the absence of broad the broad new authority she sought.

In all likelihood, SPD won’t start rounding up fentanyl users on Third Avenue, and Manion won’t start prosecuting people for simple possession, but that would have been the case even if the legislation had passed. Manion, who supported the bill, rarely pursues even felony drug cases, and SPD has been focusing its resources on people higher up the illicit drug food chain—”the dealers and traffickers bringing this poison into our communities,” as Mayor Bruce Harrell put it in a statement after the vote. Harrell, no fan of drug-war policies, has stayed largely silent on the legislation; in his statement, he said it was “unacceptable for people to consume illegal drugs in public spaces,” but also emphasized “new and innovative approaches to ensure those in need receive the treatment they deserve,” such as contingency management.

Lewis’ potential legislation is the wild card. If he re-introduces some version of Davison’s bill—criminalizing drug use but securing promises from her office about diversion and treatment, for example—it could reignite a largely irrelevant debate about arresting and jailing drug users amid an overdose crisis that cries out for evidence-based approaches, not overheated drug-war rhetoric.

King County Jail Director Asks Court to Rescind Rule That Limits Youth Detention

Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention Director Allen Nance (background: King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall)
Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention Director Allen Nance (background: King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall)

By Erica C. Barnett

The director of King County’s Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DADJ), Allen Nance, has asked the state supreme court to rescind a rule barring local courts from issuing warrants against and jailing young people who violate court orders or fail to appear in court, unless the child poses a “serious threat to public safety.”

The court issued the rule in 2020 to reduce crowding in youth jails and made it permanent in 2021, sparking immediate pushback from judges and juvenile court administrators, who argued that judges need discretion to jail young people for their own good and so that they won’t commit more crimes in their communities.

In a letter to the court in April, Nance argued that judges are “uniquely situated to make informed decisions regarding the need for temporary custody of a youth following the issuance of a bench warrant and once a youth is brought before the court to have the warrant served or quashed, because they “often know the youth, their family, and social histories or have the expertise to obtain the information they need to help determine the presence of urgent and immediate necessity for a custodial response.”

For example, Nance continued, a young person may need to be held in jail because their parents “do not know where their son or daughter has been living or what challenges they face outside the home”—challenges that could include “the deadly effects of substances [such as fentanyl] that are readily accessible to youth and permeate our communities.” Although “most youth do not require custodial supervision and incarceration,” Nance wrote, “for a subset of the youth who come before juvenile court judges, a decision to issue a bench warrant or order custody may mean the difference between life and death.”

A spokesman for the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention said the department “does not track data specific to how young people who are released in their communities while awaiting resolution of their court issues may end up harming themselves or their community.”

However, the spokesman continued, the views Nance expressed in his letter “are about doing what is in the best interest of young people and what also promotes community safety. Proper judicial oversight is required to ensure that both the best interest of young people as well as the community are taken into consideration.” The letter, he added, is limited to the court rule restricting warrants for failure to appear and violating court orders. “We continue to advance our commitment to find alternatives to incarceration whenever possible, in the least restrictive environment that achieves the safety goals for youth and the community,” the spokesman said.

Anita Khandelwal, who directs the county’s Department of Public Defense, says if the court gets rid of the rule restricting warrants for youth who don’t pose an imminent threat, the most likely outcome is a return to pre-COVID policy, in which judges issued warrants “without examining whether the youth posed a serious threat to public safety,” including situations where “a youth didn’t come to court or wasn’t at home when they were supposed to be.”

The result, she says, will be a spike in warrants and youth incarceration, especially for young people of color; in 2019, before the court issued the rule, between 82 and 84 percent of warrants issued by King County Juvenile Court judges in 2019 were for youth of color, according to Khandelwal.

In a letter asking state Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven González to maintain the rule, dozens of advocates and defense attorneys argued that incarcerating young people harms their physical and mental health, disrupts their education, and worsens the racial disproportionality of the entire criminal legal system. “Because the juvenile legal system is entangled with many other institutions that have perpetuated racist practices like policing, housing, education, and employment discrimination, limiting the circumstances under which a youth can be incarcerated due to a warrant in a juvenile offense proceeding protects our youth and enables a more racially just future,” the letter says.

King County, under County Executive Dow Constantine, has vowed to shut down the youth jail by 2025, although that pledge has been coupled with an increase in youth incarceration and worsening conditions at the facility. So far this year, an average of 34 kids are incarcerated at the Clark Children and Family Justice Center in Seattle every day, an increase of almost 20 percent over  .

In a letter to Khandelwal, Constantine’s labor relations director, Megan Pedersen, said the county executive “has always empowered county leaders to weigh in on policy matters based on their operational vantage point and subject matter expertise. … This issue highlights the complexity we navigate with criminal justice issues within the Executive Branch given competing policy objectives.”

Khandelwal has asked to add Nance’s letter to the agenda for the next meeting of the county’s Care and Closure Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations on a path to closing down the youth jail; that meeting will be on Monday, June 24 at 4pm.

Drug Criminalization Bill Could Hang on One Vote; Dones May Get Consultant Contract After Leaving Homelessness Agency

1. As of last week, the Seattle City Council seemed likely to vote at least 5-4 in favor of legislation, proposed by City Attorney Ann Davison and sponsored by Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen, to criminalize simple drug possession and public use at the city level. The state legislature, responding to a state supreme court decision overturning the state’s previous felony law, made drug use and possession a gross misdemeanor earlier this year; the local proposal would incorporate parts of that law into the city’s municipal code.

However, after Davison abruptly withdrew the city from Seattle’s community court—a therapeutic court that accepts people accused of most misdemeanors without requiring them to plead guilty of a crime—council members who were leaning toward a “yes” vote have reportedly been reconsidering their positions. If Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda, Tammy Morales, Kshama Sawant, and Lisa Herbold all vote “no,” all it will take is one more council member—either Andrew Lewis or Dan Strauss, both up for reelection this year—to doom the bill.

Lewis declined to comment on Monday, and Strauss did not respond to a text message last week. However, Strauss proposed an amendment on Monday that would add a “whereas” clause the bill pointing out that the state law mentions diversion, treatment, and services as alternatives to booking and prosecution, suggesting that he may believe the new law meaningfully encourages these alternatives.

If Strauss supports the bill, the decision would come down to Lewis. Although Lewis told the Seattle Times he supports prosecuting people for public drug use, that was before Davison withdrew the city from community court. In light of that decision, Lewis may want to avoid handing more authority to a separately elected official who has demonstrated she will act unilaterally to penalize low-level crimes. During Monday’s council briefing, Lewis criticized Davison’s decision, saying it was “concerning that the decision to pull out and disrupt that program has been made without a well-thought–out plan on what replaces it.”

The criminalization bill skipped past the usual committee hearing, so tomorrow’s 2 pm full council meeting will be the first time the council discusses the legislation publicly, and the first and last opportunity for the public to address the council directly before the vote.

2. Former King County Regional Homelessness Authority CEO Marc Dones, who announced their resignation last month, will reportedly receive a public contract to work on an unspecified project for the agency for up to three months after their last day on June 16. Sources close to Dones and the agency were tight-lipped about the details, but the deal is said to be a kind of payment in lieu of severance because Dones decided to resign rather than forcing the agency to fire them, which was starting to look more and more likely in the weeks leading up to Dones’ resignation.

Dones has been a divisive figure, winning praise for their big-picture vision and efforts to include people with direct experience in decisions that impact them directly, along with criticism for neglecting ground-level details, like building relationships with existing service providers and paying contractors on time.

It’s unclear exactly where the money for Dones’ potential contract would come from, and whether it would require them to be physically present at KCRHA headquarters at the same time that an interim director, Helen Howell, is working to establish a new course for the agency. A representative for King County declined to comment on the details of the potential contract, and a representative for Harrell did not respond to an email, a phone call, or a text message seeking comment.