The three Jefferson County commissioners signed a $275,000 settlement with Sequim resident Joe D’Amico and his two companies, Fort Discovery Corporation and Security Services Northwest, that dismisses 10 lawsuits against the county.
The settlement also places a five-year moratorium on D’Amico and his businesses from filing new public records requests with the county.
The settlement was agreed upon during the commissioners’ March 1 meeting.
“In making the settlement, the County specifically denied liability for any of the plaintiffs’ claims, declaring that the settlement is to secure peace and end further litigation,” according to a county press release. “In just one of the lawsuits the plaintiffs are dropping, they sued the County for $100 Million.”
The settlement avoids further financial losses from the county, commission chair Kate Dean said.
“We never like using the public’s funds to settle lawsuits and claims,” Dean said. “But the cost of not settling is certain to be much higher, both in dollars and staff time diverted in defending these claims and fulfilling an ongoing onslaught of frequent and very complex public records requests.”
As part of the settlement, D’Amico agreed to release and withdraw all prior and pending public records requests and to the five-year moratorium.
D’Amico has filed more than 170 requests during the past three years, and there are 46 requests currently open that will be withdrawn, according to the county release.
D’Amico is pleased with the settlement, and he feels he helped the county be more transparent in its practices, he said in a statement from Security Services Northwest (SSW) on March 2.
“It is time to refocus our energy on what we do best, security,” he said. “Security Services Northwest has grown into five states with 395 employees, and it doesn’t make financial sense to continue litigation with Jefferson County.”
Six of the pending requests are “massive and difficult to fulfill and would monopolize staff time for years to come if not withdrawn,” the county release said.
“This settlement agreement puts the past behind us, conserves significant county resources, and frees us from future repetitive records requests and lawsuits,” said Greg Brotherton, District 3 commissioner.
“All in all, while painful, this settlement allows the County to move forward to focus on meeting community needs now and in the future,” he said.
D’Amico also agreed to cease funding lawsuits by other individuals against Jefferson County. D’Amico had been advertising on Facebook, offering to fund other people’s lawsuits against the county, and that will now cease, according to the press release.
Fort Discovery Corporation also entered into a voluntary compliance agreement to bring its Cedar Hills property into compliance with multiple code violations documented in a letter dated May 10, 2019, the press release said.
Those violations include critical area ordinance violations, a stormwater permit violation, building permit violations and the need to comply with zoning, the release said.
D’Amico said he looks forward to working with the county to bring the property into compliance and is “excited” about future possibilities for it, according to the SSW release.
By agreeing to voluntary compliance, Fort Discovery Corporation accepted the county’s prior non-compliance findings, and those cannot be contested in future enforcement proceedings, the press release said.
The 10 lawsuits that were dropped include six cases, two appeals and two pending claims filed from 2018 to 2020, according to the release.