- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

SEATAC, Wash. (AP) - A couple who sued the city of SeaTac for scheming against their plan to open a park-and-fly garage near Seattle-Tacoma International airport have been awarded $18 million from a jury and a judge who harshly criticized city officials.

The Seattle Times reported (https://goo.gl/xm5N0K ) Tuesday the city has been ordered to pay the money to Gerry and Kathy Kingen and that the city and its insurers are appealing.

In an order issued earlier this month, King County Superior Court Judge Richard McDermott found that SeaTac city officials misled the couple into believing they would support the couple’s business plans, when they were actually trying to block them and acquire the 4-acre (1.6-hectare) property.

“Quite frankly the actions of the city of SeaTac in this case are unexplainable and totally unacceptable,” McDermott said in issuing his July 8 order.

McDermott said city-imposed delays the couple faced as they tried to develop the garage and forced them to default on their purchase of the property.



The city then purchased the property but secretly used a commercial real-estate broker to conceal it was the buyer, the judgment said.

City officials also withheld public records from the Kingens, the decision said, and the judge invited the couple’s lawyers to file an ethics complaint against an assistant city attorney.

Acting SeaTac City Manager Joseph Scorcio declined to comment on the case because the case is under appeal, adding that the judge’s declarations are also “a matter of pending litigation” that he would not describe.

The Kingens and their company, K&S; Developments, bought the property in 2003 and sued SeaTac in in 2012.

The judge concluded officials were worried that the couple’s parking garage plans would compete with city plans for a similar business and that former SeaTac Mayor Gene Fisher wanted condominiums built on the Klingens’ land, believing that would price out Somali immigrants who had moved into “his neighborhood,” the judgment said.

Fisher lived three blocks away and was also worried a park-and-fly garage nearby would make it difficult for him to sell his property, the judge wrote.

Reached by The Seattle Times at his home in Nevada, Fisher declined to comment in detail but said “there’s a lot of things said about me that’s not true.”

The Kingens - who own Salty’s restaurants and founded the Red Robin Gourmet Burgers chain - said they feel vindicated.

“We stood up not just for ourselves. We knew all along if Gerry and I didn’t stand up, who would? Who could?” Kathy Kingen said. “If somebody like us doesn’t do this, the government is allowed to run roughshod over property rights.”

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Information from: The Seattle Times, https://www.seattletimes.com

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