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FEATURE NEWS

GOLD BAR CAN’T GET A BREAK
First burdensome records requests, then lawsuits now big time thieves steal $450,000

November 20, 2012




Sign entering Gold Bar as seen from eastbound Highway 2. Sky Valley Chronicle photo.


Judgement summary. CLICK TO OPEN AND READ


State Supreme Court letter leveling sanctions against appellants from Gold Bar. CLICK TO OPEN AND READ
Chronicle Staff
Updated 11/28/12 with new information


(GOLD BAR, WA) -- There must be a dark cloud of doom hanging over Gold Bar. Are the gods in a foul mood? Was someone Hitler in a previous life? Black moons rising and bad blood feuds now seem to call the place home.

As if tiny Gold Bar didn’t have enough problems to deal with – what with the town financially hammered and looking at possible disincorporation thanks primarily to the actions of three locals described in a new report as malcontents that are “negative, nasty, and full of bile," – it appears that a rather sophisticated and persistent fraud ring stole $450,000 from the community via computer hacking the town's bank account.

According to Gold Bar Mayor Joe Beavers town officials first became aware of a problem a year ago when someone tried to pass fake checks made to look as though they were from Gold Bar’s town accounts.

The city contacted authorities at that time and closed out that bank account and opened a new one, but evidently the same persistent thieves eventually got into that one, and got into it but good.

Beavers says someone tapped the account electronically - read that wire fraud - for some $450,000, although the town has since recovered about half that amount and there is hope the rest can be recovered.

The case is under investigation by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit, the FBI and the IRS as part of a wider investigation into what is believed to be a fraud ring operating in several states.

TIMING COULD NOT HAVE BEEN WORSE

All of this couldn’t come at a worse time for Gold Bar as the town is currently in the midst of serious finance difficulties due to the expenses of legal issues relating to public records requests and various lawsuits instigated by primarily three Gold Bar women – described by town council member Davi Martin in a new Seattle Times story here as “negative, nasty, and full of bile" – that may force the town to disincorporate.

The problem is that even though the town wins time after time in court against the accusations thrown at it, “We’re going broke winning lawsuits,” Beavers told the Sky Valley Chronicle recently.

Just last week the town won yet another round in court, and spent yet more money to do it. More on that story here

GOLD BAR WINS ATTORNEY FEES, BUT NO PAY SO FAR

The town even won some hefty attorney fees and costs from one of the legal suits filed against it, but so far has not been able to collect a penny.

In a document filed Feb. 3, 2012 in Snohomish County Superior Court and signed by Judge Linda C. Krese, Gold Bar was awarded a total judgment of $8,017.10 in court costs and fees against a woman named Anne K. Block of Gold Bar for failing to appear at a legal deposition as required on Dec. 1, 2011 in the matter of a summons and complaint pursuant to the Public Records Act she had filed against Gold Bar previously.

Judge Krese ruled that the town had incurred “costs and fees as a result of Plaintiff’s failure to appear.”

The complete judgement summary can be viewed in the PDF file at upper right. CLICK TO OPEN.

The order noted that Block had failed to pay - out of the total $8,017.10 - an amount of $7,049.10 in a previous Dec. 30, 2011 judgment against Block..

Judge Krese's order noted that, “Plaintiff has provided no good cause” for failing to comply with the court’s previous order to pay Gold Bar the $7,049.10 in costs and fees, thus the Feb. 3, 2012 order from Krese added another $968.00 as a sanction for not paying the previous judgment which then brought the total judgment against Block to $8,017.10.

Krese’s order also noted that Block was "in contempt of this court’s December 20, 2011 and December 30, 2011 orders” pertaining to Block not showing up for a deposition or paying the earlier court costs to Gold Bar as the court had required.

Krese wrote that the court had considered lesser, alternative sanctions against Block but the court concluded that, “Such sanctions would not be sufficient because they would likewise not be complied with by Plaintiff and would not deter the conduct of Plaintiff.”

MORE SANCTIONS LEVIED AGAINST BLOCK

Then in July of this year the Washington State Supreme Court issued a $250 sanction fee against Block and four others in the matter of the petition of the recall of Gold Bar councilman Christopher Wright.

See letter from state Supreme Court on the sanction at above right. CLICK PDF FILE to open.

The court noted that a June 15 letter was sent to Block and the others noting that their “statement of arrangements” was over due for filing. The court had alerted the five that a ,”Statement of arrangements or a statement that the appellants do not intend to provide a verbatim report of the proceedings must be served and filed by not (sic) later than June 29, 2012.” The letter indicated that failure to do so “could result in sanctions.”

The letter said that as of July 6, 2012 there had not been any response by the appellants to the court’s previous letter so the court imposed a “sanction in the amount of $250” on the appellants and noted that no further pleadings from the appellants would be accepted in that matter until the sanction had been paid in full.

TOWN RESIDENTS VOTE NO ON LEVY TO FUND LEGAL COSTS

In this month’s general election Gold Bar residents voted on whether to tax themselves a bit more – to pay for all the legal expenses – in order to keep the city running and they said no.

The yeses to the tax levy question totaled 181 votes (41.4%) and the no’s had it 259 votes (58.8%).

“The citizens have spoken, “said Beavers in an interview with the Sky Valley Chronicle right after the election. “We said we need this (the temporary tax) to continue operations of the city…they (the voters) refused to put the extra money up for that."

So now what?

TIME TO MASSAGE THE BUDGET INTO A MIRACLE

“The first thing we have to do is come up with an income statement for 2013. We have one already based on the assumption the levy would pass. Now that it didn’t pass we will just re-adjust the income statement and once we do that then we start on expenditures and look to maintain expenditures less than income,” said Beavers.

He also says he doesn’t know yet what the odds are of being able to come up with a solution to keep the town funded properly or, in a worst case scenario, seek disincorporation of the town which he says would be faster and cheaper than bankruptcy as far as they can tell.

Tonight the Gold Bar town council will start taking up the challenge of how to fund the town now that the levy has failed.

Budget talks for the 2013 budget will last through November and December. It takes six or so council meetings to set a budget, says Beavers.

But by the end of December a budget will need to be in place and residents of Gold Bar may have some indication of their future as a town or as a part of unincorporated Snohomish County once again.

Had it passed the temporary levy would have cost the average homeowner in Gold Bar about $10.83 a month or $130 more a year on their property tax bills on a temporary basis.






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