Withheld documents to cost city $38K to settle gun-buyback suit
The city of Seattle will pay $38,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that Mayor Mike McGinn’s office failed to disclose all public records relating to his controversial gun buyback last January.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The city of Seattle will pay $38,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the Second Amendment Foundation over failure to release public records relating to Mayor Mike McGinn’s January gun buyback.
The settlement was signed Monday by Carl Marquardt, legal counsel to McGinn, and includes an apology for the mayor’s office’s failure to release records about the controversial buyback program, which netted about 700 guns but also provoked criticism from public-health and gun-rights advocates that it wouldn’t cut gun violence.
The city acknowledged it had a duty under the state Public Records Act “to provide all documents in response to the Second Amendment Foundation’s (SAF) public disclosure request in a timely manner, and that it did not do so. ... While the initial failure to produce records in this case was unintentional, the city acknowledges that it did not meet the requirements of the Public Records Act, and for that we sincerely apologize,” it reads.
It goes on to say that the city is working to improve its processes for locating documents and responding to public-records requests. The Police Department earlier this year paid $20,000 to The Seattle Times to settle a claim it had not released public records as required by state law.
“While the city maintains this was an unintentional oversight, many hundreds of documents were not provided,” said Miko Tempski, attorney for the Second Amendment Foundation.
“SAF made the same request of King County. That response was forthright and totally in compliance with the law, everything that Seattle’s was not,” he said.
In February, the foundation, based in Bellevue, requested all city communications and related documents about the buyback and in response received almost 1,700 emails exchanged by five McGinn staffers.
In June, a Seattlepi.com reporter wrote that his own records request showed the state’s most prominent gun-control group, Washington CeaseFire, wasn’t notified about the buyback before it was announced.
Ralph Fascitelli, president of Washington CeaseFire, emailed the mayor when he learned of the plans and told McGinn that buybacks often backfire and that the overwhelming research shows they are a waste of resources, the Seattlepi.com reported.
Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said his organization never received the emails detailed in the news story. In filing the lawsuit, he accused McGinn’s staff of “playing games” with the government’s legal requirement to be transparent and accountable.
The $38,000 settlement will cover the foundation’s legal fees and civil penalties.
The gun buyback also led to political embarrassment for McGinn. In May, he announced that the 716 guns collected at a January buyback would be melted and turned into plaques that would be inscribed with messages of hope for a nonviolent future written by Seattle schoolchildren.
Within days, KIRO Radio learned that the guns already had been melted down.
The mayor acknowledged that at the time he announced the program he knew the guns already had been destroyed, but he said he decided the accompanying news release was accurate and that the city would transform the guns acquired in a future gun-buyback program for the Weapons to Words plaques.
A second buyback has not been held.
Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes