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February 19, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Misrepresentation in longshore workers’ arena lawsuit?

Key to the arena lawsuit filed by the longshore workers union is the argument that the Memorandum of Understanding reached in October with investor Chris Hansen, Seattle and King County commits the government to a Sodo location in violation of state environmental laws. The agreement names the Sodo site, where Hansen owns land, and creates “irreversible momentum” to develop a $500 million arena there before required evaluations of alternate sites and environmental impacts are known, according to lawyers for Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The union’s legal brief for the lawsuit, opens with a powerful quote by County Executive Dow Constantine from an Oct. 16 news conference that implies that the agreement essentially seals the deal by detailing how Hansen will develop the arena and seek an NBA team to play there.

“… [a] major and critical milestone has been achieved.  As a result of this legislation we have a clear path forward … Mr. Hansen and his ownership group can now start in earnest on the purchase and development of the new state-of-the-art multi-purpose arena.  Maybe most importantly, the passage of this legislation allows Chris Hansen to undertake the really important work of acquiring an NBA team and bringing our Sonics home.”

But the reply brief filed by Hansen’s attorneys Friday contains the full Constantine quote. What the union omitted (and in one case even the ellipses were left out) seems to undercut the longshore workers’ arguments that the agreement ensures development of the Sodo site. The full quote — with omissions in bold — is:

“Let me be clear, the process is still not finished.  But a major and critical milestone has been achieved. As a result of this legislation, we have a clear path forward.  As the approved memorandum of understanding spells out the conditions that Chris Hansen and his investors must satisfy before the City and County provide the necessary public financing.  Mr. Hansen and his ownership group can now start in earnest on the planning and development of the new state-of-the-art multipurpose NBA and NHL arena.  The County and City are committed to carrying out our regulatory responsibilities and the required review of the project under the State Environmental Policy Act.  And, maybe most importantly, the passage of this legislation allows Chris Hansen to undertake the really important work of acquiring an NBA team and bringing our Sonics home.”

See the live Constantine remarks here.

Contacted by phone, Peter Goldman, who is representing the longshore workers along with David Mann, called the condensed quote a “non-issue.” He said the point was to show that the Memorandum of Understanding created more than a process that includes environmental review. “It was a major important decision to moving this project forward. They’re trying to minimize the agreement. SEPA is not just a box that gets checked,” Goldman argued.

King County Superior Court Judge Douglas North will hear arguments in the case Friday.  A decision could be issued from the bench.

Comments | Topics: Arena lawsuit, City of Seattle, Dow Constantine

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