Mayor Benson Can Hire Attorney For Black Diamond
A motion has been granted by King County Superior Court Judge Janet Helson to allow Black Diamond City to hire an attorney. The attorney will be Shannon Ragonesi from Keating, Bucklin & McCormick out of Seattle.
Three councilmembers, Morgan, Pepper and Weber were hit with a lawsuit from CCD Black Diamond Partners LLC, (a division of Oakpointe) and clarification was needed as to who would represent the three councilmembers named in lawsuit.
The three councilmembers have argued that they feel the city should pay for their defense while Mayor Benson has argued that the city and the councilmembers defense should be handled differently.
Mayor Benson contracted with Shannon Ragonesi to represent the city while the three councilmembers contracted with Jeff Taraday of Lighthouse Law Group of Seattle.
So, Ragonesi filed a motion on January 25, requesting the court to allow herself to be the legal representative for the City of Black Diamond. Then on January 31, Jeff Taraday responded saying the mayor had no authority hiring Ragonesi because only the city council could hire the legal representation. Ragonesi then came back on Feb. 1, with the argument that Morgan, Pepper and Weber must be ‘conflicted out of any decision regarding representation’ for the City of Black Diamond. She also proceeded to say the Mayor Benson had and has the authority to contract legal counsel to defend the City of Black Diamond.
King County Superior Court Judge Janet Helson agreed with the city and has allowed Ragonesi to be the legal counsel for Black Diamond. Helson also said Mayor Benson can continue to contract with Ragonesi’s legal services in this matter under the powers granted to her by the state law and city code, and a necessary power to assure her obligation to see all city laws and ordinances are enforced and kept.
Helson also said the Mayor has the control of the City’s defense including settlement authority and interference or obstruction by the individual defendants will not be allowed.
On Monday, Feb 6, Ragonesi sent out a message that said Mayor Benson has the authority to hire legal representation for lawsuits pertaining to Black Diamond and the three councilmembers could not dismiss her choice or vote not to pay for the representation or vote to have the city settle the case.
A ruling from the court has not been done on if Morgan, Pepper and Weber will have to pay for their own defense or if the city will be responsible for it.