Washington County judge rules city in contempt after blasting Beaverton for slow responses
Washington County Circuit Judge Gayle Nachtigal declared Nike Inc. the winner Monday afternoon in its long legal tussle with the city of Beaverton.
Nachtigal also ruled that the city was in contempt after it failed to produce a draft annexation issue paper it knew to be responsive to Nike's public records request.
"The city did not want to turn over the document because it would fly in the face of what they were saying," Nachtigal said from the bench following a hearing in Hillsboro. "Instead, the city chose to bury it and hide it, and that is contemptuous behavior.
"Many people in the city knew about that document, knew it was responsive to the pubic records request and did not turn it over until forced to do so."
Beaverton officials are considering an appeal of the ruling.
"The city doesn't believe this is the appropriate outcome given the facts of the case," said Mayor Rob Drake. "Therefore, consideration will be given for appealing this decision to a higher court."
Linda Adlard, the mayor's chief of staff, stood by previous arguments she made to the contrary after the hearing.
"We attempted to give Nike that document on three occasions," Adlard said as she left the courtroom. "Nike had that document in their possession and they refused to take it."
Nachtigal rejected that argument and city officials' claim that the document was exempt because it was an internal staff discussion about annexation options that was never shared with the City Council.
"The city's failure to disclose it upfront and easily locate it is the fault of the city," she said. "If the city had been forthcoming in forwarding that annexation issue paper, the allocation of costs would be very different."
Nachtigal ruled that the city would be forced to bear the bulk of the costs to process the public records search because "the city stonewalled, hid and engaged in behavior" that caused the case to drag on.
While the judge will rule later on which party will pay attorneys' fees in the legal feud, Nike will foot the bill for the production of the "smoking gun" document and the forensics search of city officials' private home computers as nothing of value was found on them.
Nike attorneys said two months ago that the company's legal costs could be more than $200,000. The company has not yet presented a itemized bill to the court for its legal expenses.
Nike representatives said the court's ruling sent a strong message that preserved the integrity of Oregon public records law.
"We're delighted with the court's ruling," said Vada Manager, a Nike spokesman. "It further demonstrates that this case could have been resolved some time ago with a walk down the hall, peek into a filing cabinet and a quick trip to Kinko's."