Port of Tacoma announces settlement agreement related to Fair Campaign Practices Act litigation

The Port of Tacoma (Port), Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County (EDB), Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber (Chamber), and the Washington State Office of Attorney General (Attorney General) have agreed to settle a lawsuit related to the Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA). 

The issue brought forth in the litigation stems from a citizen action complaint filed with the Attorney General’s office, alleging that the Port, EDB and Chamber violated the FCPA by filing a court action against two local initiative petitions in 2016. The two initiatives were subsequently found to be invalid by the trial and appellate courts.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit against the parties claimed that the EDB and Chamber did not report legal fees and the Port used public funds in their lawsuit against the initiatives.

The Port, EDB and Chamber filed the lawsuit on the initiatives to protect the Port's economic development mission. At the time, the filing of a lawsuit was not considered a form of "campaign activity." Both the Public Disclosure Commission and the Pierce County Superior Court found that no FCPA violations had been committed. An appellate court later reversed this decision, shortly after the Washington State Supreme Court adopted a new interpretation of the FCPA law in another matter unrelated to the Port.

The parties have now agreed to resolve all issues. As a routine matter, the Attorney General settles its lawsuits as judgments, requiring that defendants acknowledge the violation, a penalty is assessed, and attorney fees are recouped. The Port, EDB and Chamber have agreed to pay a fine of $34,000 (with $17,000 suspended for 4 years contingent on no findings of violations during this period), and $73,000 for attorney’s fees. 

"I am glad that we were able to reach a settlement plan to provide a solution to the issues presented by this litigation process," said Port Executive Director Eric Johnson. “The Port, along with our partners EDB and the Chamber, continue our respective missions to attract and retain jobs and provide sustainable economic development opportunities to help ensure the health and prosperity of the Pierce County community.”

About the Port of Tacoma

The Port of Tacoma is an economic engine for South Puget Sound. More than 29,000 jobs are generated by port activity, which also provides $195 million per year in state and local taxes to support education, roads and police and fire protection for our community. As a partner in The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the Port of Tacoma is also a major cargo gateway to Asia and Alaska.