Growing legal tab in Clark County v. C-Tran dispute

When Clark County received a $5,069 bill from Pacifica Law Group in January, we figured it wasn’t the last taxpayer expense related to the county’s legal dispute with C-Tran.

This month, the county received another invoice from the Seattle-based firm, this one for $18,281.20, bringing the total tab to more than $23,000. Clark County paid the entire balance out of its general fund, according to the county’s “transparency” page.

The county hired Pacifica Law Group back in December, shortly after a special committee rearranged the membership of the C-Tran Board of Directors. The change cost Clark County one of its three seats at the table, giving the county decidedly less influence on the transit agency’s board. County councilors have objected to that outcome, alleging that C-Tran didn’t properly notice the Nov. 18 meeting where the decision was made.

C-Tran, for its part, has said it followed state law when it provided notice for the meeting.

County Councilor David Madore has publicly threatened legal action against C-Tran. The invoices show the county’s legal staff was in contact with Pacifica throughout December and January. Two Pacifica lawyers attended a closed executive session meeting with county councilors on Jan. 21, according to the second invoice — the most expensive line items in the billing summary.

It’s worth noting that C-Tran has also been criticized for its legal costs. Most recently, the C-Tran board in January authorized paying nearly $11,000 to K & L Gates, the firm C-Tran pays for its legal representation. That number has been much higher in the past. In September, for example, C-Tran paid more than $66,000 to K & L Gates for various legal services. But unlike the county, C-Tran doesn’t have its own legal staff.

The C-Tran board, meanwhile, has continued to function with the new arrangement since it took effect in January.

If the county makes good on its threat to sue C-Tran, expect the legal bills for both sides to go up.

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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