Clark County’s legal bill for C-Tran dispute

Clark County’s ongoing dispute with C-Tran over the transit agency’s board composition has raised a lot of questions.

Will the county make good on its threat to sue C-Tran? Will county councilors stage another sit-in at next month’s C-Tran board meeting? Will the kerfuffle actually change anything?

Time will tell. Meanwhile, a public records request has answered at least one other question: Who’s paying Pacifica Law Group, the Seattle-based firm that penned a letter on the county’s behalf?

The answer: Clark County taxpayers.

The county recently received an invoice for $5,069 in legal services through Dec. 31 — a number that’s likely to increase, considering Pacifica’s letter is dated Jan. 13.

Clark County has argued that C-Tran didn’t properly notice the Nov. 18 committee meeting that rearranged its board membership, costing the county one of its three seats at the table in the process. During this month’s C-Tran board meeting, when the changes took effect, county Councilor David Madore handed out separate letters from both the county and Pacifica Law Group making their case.

Some had wondered whether Madore himself was paying for Pacifica’s services. A search on the county’s “Transparency” page so far turns up no payments to the firm. But in response to a records request by citizen Jackie Lane, the county released the invoice and emails between Pacifica and county staff as far back as Dec. 11. An agreement letter was signed and dated Dec. 17.

(An interesting side note: Pacifica Law Group was founded in 2011 by six former partners at K & L Gates — the firm C-Tran pays for its legal representation.)

C-Tran has said it followed state law when it provided notice for the Nov. 18 meeting. That included an official legal notice published more than a month ahead of time in The Columbian, C-Tran’s newspaper of record. (Cough.)

Madore has argued the earlier notice should have included the “business to be transacted” at the meeting, but did not. He has also questioned whether the board change itself was appropriate.

The county has called for the C-Tran board composition review committee to convene again and take another vote. Even if that happens, it’s hard to see the outcome changing. Assuming everyone votes the same, and Councilor Jeanne Stewart replaces former Commissioner Ed Barnes at the table, a 7-3 vote becomes 6-4 and produces the same result.

For now, the odd man out remains county Councilor Tom Mielke after it was determined Madore and Stewart would be the county’s two representatives. That didn’t stop Mielke from casting votes at the last meeting.

As a former colleague suggested, maybe we should now formally refer to the group as the C-Tran Board of Directors and Tom.

Eric Florip

Eric Florip

I'm the environment/transportation reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Contact me at or 360-735-4541.

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