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Originally published Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Court wants bigger fine for King county

King County must pay more than the $123,000 fine set by a trial judge over County Executive Ron Sims' failure to comply with the state Public...

King County must pay more than the $123,000 fine set by a trial judge over County Executive Ron Sims' failure to comply with the state Public Disclosure Act, the state Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The decision, written by Judge Kenneth Grosse, said the penalty imposed by Superior Court Judge Michael Hayden was "unsustainable" and remanded the case to the trial judge to set "an appropriate penalty." It's the second time the Court of Appeals has insisted the fine be raised.

The case, closely watched by government agencies and advocates for openness in government, has been in the courts since 2000, when Seattle businessman Armen Yousoufian accused Sims' office of foot-dragging on Yousoufian's 1997 request for documents relating to public financing of Qwest Field.

Former King County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Learned initially found Sims' office "grossly negligent" and ordered the county to pay the minimum $5 fine for each day it failed to produce batches of documents. The state Public Disclosure Act allows fines up to $100 per day.

The Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court both ruled Learned's $5-a-day fine was too low and told the trial court to reconsider.

Hayden raised the fine to $15 a day and ordered the county to pay Yousoufian's legal costs of about $250,000.

The appeals court remanded the case to Hayden and gave him guidelines for setting a higher fine.

Sims' spokeswoman Carolyn Duncan could not be reached about whether the county is considering an appeal.

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