Mediation set to settle cities’ fight over police

The Chronicle (Centralia)May 5, 2014 

The cities of Tenino and Rainier will enter mediation next month to settle an ongoing legal dispute regarding police services, according to a contracted Olympia law firm.

Dale Kamerrer, an attorney from Law, Lyman, Daniel, Kamerrer & Bogdanovich, said the two parties will meet May 22 for mediation.

Both cities disagree with how much, and for how long, Rainier must continue to pay for law enforcement services from the Tenino Police Department.

Rainier Mayor Randy Schleis told Tenino in December 2012 that Rainier would terminate its police contract by June 30, 2013, and would, instead, seek law enforcement services from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the contract, Rainier was required to give 18 months notice before ending the agreement. In March 2013, the Tenino City Council voted to not release Rainier from its almost $80,000-per-year contract and not amend a 2006 contract addendum for 40 hours per week that expanded the level of service from Tenino. That cost Rainier an additional $60,000 annually.

According to the Tenino council, Rainier breached the contract and owes Tenino almost $100,000. Tenino is seeking damages equal to all unpaid charges for the full term of the contract, plus interest, as well as reimbursement for all legal fees.

“The mediator would look at all the facts of the case and try to come to some kind of resolution, whether that is money or a reinstatement of a contract,” Tenino Councilman Wayne Fournier said. “I don’t know what Rainier’s thoughts are. I think Rainier wanted out of the contract, because they thought there was too much instability.”

Schleis cited concerns about Tenino’s ability to provide adequate police service and a frustration with Tenino’s officials, specifically former Mayor Eric Strawn.

Schleis previously said he was worried about Tenino’s political stability, beginning in early 2012, and believed Strawn was considering eliminating Tenino’s police department.

“Strawn’s first year in office was not comforting,” Schleis said in a written statement. “Strawn was inexperienced in government, politics and public office, and was not assisted by the Tenino City Council. The City Council openly fought with Strawn and at times attempted to run city government.”

Schleis said Tenino neglected its required duties and did not provide adequate police service toward the end of the cities’ contract. Ultimately, Schleis said that extenuating circumstances, including instability under Strawn, allowed the city to leave the contract.

The mediation next month comes after a Thurston County Superior Court judge refused in October 2013 to dismiss the case, which Rainier requested.

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