- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

PORT ANGELES, Wash. (AP) - Clallam County officials have negotiated a settlement with a couple who sued for public records in 2014, after officials this year discovered thousands of pages documents in a basement that should have been provided earlier.

The proposed settlement with Scott and Elizabeth Lange will cost the county about $550,000, The Peninsula Daily News reported (http://goo.gl/ME57gi ).

The couple has been in a long-running dispute with the county over building permits issued to the owners of an adjacent property on Clallam Bay.

The Langes sued in Kitsap County Superior Court in 2014, alleging violations of the state Public Records Act in the processing of public records filed between 2009 and 2013. They argued the county improperly redacted emails as attorney-client privilege and didn’t provide records connected to land-use code amendments.

Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols wrote in a memo last week that officials this year discovered thousands of pages documents in a box in a locked storage room in the basement of the Clallam County Courthouse, as well as on a secured electronic file folder.

The officials were responding to a more recent public-records request filed by the Langes, the newspaper reported.

Nichols said the discovered records “fundamentally altered” the county’s ability to defend itself against the public-records lawsuit.

“The county will be required to pay a significant amount of money regardless of whether it resolves the lawsuit consistent with the mediated settlement agreement or pushes the matter to trial,” Nichols told the newspaper.

Under the proposed settlement negotiated in May and recently posted on the county’s website, the county will buy three waterfront properties, including $210,000 for two of the Langes’ lots and $300,000 for the neighboring property, whose building permits the Langes had been challenged.

County officials plan to use the properties for a public waterfront park. Among other conditions in the proposed settlement, the Langes would drop their claims against the county.

Commissioners have discussed the proposed settlement in a series of closed-door executive sessions. Last week, they voted 2-1 to buy the neighboring property. Commissioner Mike Chapman voted no, citing concerns about the public process.

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Information from: Peninsula Daily News, http://www.peninsuladailynews.com

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