Submitted by Beth Elliott.
I apologize in advance for this long post, but after consultation with my attorney, I have decided to make a rare personal statement on behalf of myself and my wife, Judy, after a statement by Robbie Courts was publicly shared to two DuPont social media groups by Isabella Lynn Colvin. So as not to misrepresent Mrs. Courts’ words in any way, I will cite verbatim from her statement, and I will respond to each allegation.
A statement from Robbie Courts
“I am NOT voting for Beth Elliott for City Council in DuPont for the following reasons:
–I think she is toxic to our city. She and her partner Judy Norris have sued the City of DuPont more than once and have repeatedly tied up the staff and City resources making large Freedom of Information requests.
RESPONSE 1 (Lawsuits against City): My wife, Judy Norris, and I have never sued the City of DuPont. We have, however, had to hire attorneys on three occasions.
1. Save Our City (SOC), a citizens’ activist group, raised over $13,000 to hire an attorney to file an administrative appeal of the City’s code interpretation that would have permitted Copperleaf, a development company, to construct buildings that were actually “disguised” warehouses on the OFL property. SOC prevailed in the appeal.
2. Although SOC was the prevailing party in the appeal of the City’s code interpretation, the City, under the Courts’ Administration, decided to take punitive action and it billed Judy over $6,000 for the Hearing Examiner’s fees. Judy retained an attorney at personal expense to oppose the fees. An amicable settlement was reached by the parties, although Judy was required to sign a confidentiality agreement as part of the settlement.
3. I hired an attorney at personal expense to challenge former Mayor Courts’ decision to fire me as a Planning Commissioner on the Planning Commission. I was reinstated to my position, and I served my full term.
4. After the Planning Commission passed the Critical Area Ordinance (CAO), where I was the only Planning Commissioner to vote no on the CAO, I retained a land use attorney at personal expense to review the ordinance. For the most part, the attorney agreed with the ordinance, however, he suggested that if I was concerned about dewatering its aquifer, the city should include language in the ordinance to protect the aquifer from development. Additionally, the attorney suggested that the city could insert a clause into the ordinance prohibiting mining, gravel extraction, or similar excavation that would have more than a de minimis impact on the City’s wetlands and aquifer. As a citizen, I sent the city council a letter requesting that the foregoing language be included in the City’s CAO. Thereafter, the current City Attorney told individual council members not to talk to me and I never heard from the council regarding my letter. The CAO came for a vote before the council over a year later and the suggested language regarding the protection of the City’s wetlands and aquifer was not included.
RESPONSE 2 (Public Records): My wife, Judy, and I have never filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request since FOIA is a federal law and does not apply to local governments. Judy has, however, made public document requests under Washington’s Public Records Act. The request was necessary to obtain primary source documents regarding the former mayor’s intentions as to the development of the Old Fort Lake property and to challenge the City’s code interpretation regarding the OFL property as well.
It is interesting to note that the city, under the Courts’ Administration, settled a civil lawsuit by a DuPont family for $125,000 on the family’s claim that the city violated the Public Records Act.
–She and her partner Judy, along with the FB page they run (Save our city) use bullying techniques to try to silence anyone who disagrees with them. Examples of this include blocking anyone (or verbally attacking them) who says anything on the Save Our City (and any other DuPont FB pages) FB page that challenges their opinions, or supports their opposing position; going to the offices of a state senator and the county executive and threatening them politically if they didn’t withdraw their endorsement of a candidate that they didn’t like; instigating hiring of private investigators to try to find negative info on candidates they oppose, encouraging others to harass candidates they don’t like, etc.
RESPONSE 1 (SOC): SOC was founded in 2017 by Judy Norris, Maria Guidatis and Lisa Merkl in response to former Mayor Courts’ attempts to circumvent the City’s zoning codes prohibiting the construction of distribution warehouses on OFL. Over the years, SOC has successfully challenged the City’s attempt to construct warehouses on OFL and the impermissible construction of a 16-pump ARCO station next to a Class I wetland at the entrance of the Historic Village.
SOC has established and posted rules which members agree to when they join the group. Members who violate the rules receive warnings or they are banned from the group depending on the severity of the violation.
RESPONSE 2 (Bullying/Harassment): There is a difference between opposing a person’s opinion or position and bullying or harassing conduct. I agree with the former, as it is protected free speech, and not with the latter.
It is interesting to note that former Mayor Mike Courts was alleged to have engaged in bullying/harassing conduct during the last mayoral election:
RESPONSE 2 (Public Officials): In the free exercise of speech, Judy joined other citizens during the last mayoral election in emailing Denny Heck and Steve O’Ban regarding their endorsement of Mike Courts for Mayor. In the email, we merely put forth the reasons, supported by documents, as to why we believed Mike Courts was not suitable candidate for mayor.
RESPONSE 3 (PIs): My wife, Judy, and I have never hired a private investigator.
–Beth misrepresents facts, giving false impressions, especially regarding zoning and land use. An example: Beth has made multiple comments during her campaign about stopping warehouses. The reality is that none of the currently available commercial land in DuPont (including around the Golf course/ Old Fort Lake) for development is zoned for warehouses….in fact, the previous administration worked hard to add more appropriate options, and further restricted sizes of buildings, so warehouses could not be built.
RESPONSE: SOC prevailed against the City in its code interpretation of the OFL property. I have not misrepresented facts or given false impressions regarding zoning and land use issues. Just because a person does not agree with my comments does not mean that I misrepresent facts or give false impressions.
–The warehouses at the end of Center Drive (Amazon, etc.) were due to a zoning change (allowing that when it was not previously allowed) that was made around 2001, when Beth’s good friend Dennis Clark was the City Planner. Once a use is allowed, it cannot legally be taken off. The warehouses weren’t built until later due to the recession, but they were zoned that way back then.
RESPONSE: The warehouses in the Industrial Zone were legally built. I have never stated otherwise.
–Beth claims she got rid of trucks on Center Drive. The truth is that before Edmunds Village or Bell Hill had houses (before the early 2000’s, both were originally zoned for business tech areas), some Palisades residents (including Beth) petitioned to prohibit trucks going out south to Exit 118, although Center Drive was built to handle that and that was Northwest Landing/Weyhauser’s original intent)….so Edmunds Village and Bell Hill got all of the truck traffic. More recently, the previous mayor and city staff worked diligently with Amazon to build a bridge behind Amazon allowing for the trucks to go out of Wharf Road, and bypass Center Drive totally. Currently, there are rarely trucks on Center Drive, but Beth had nothing to do with that.
RESPONSE: Mike and Robbie Courts did not live in DuPont in 1997 when Center Drive was just a concept on paper. I and a group of like-minded citizens successfully lobbied the City Council in 1997 to restrict truck traffic on Center Drive as the city grew. The DuPont City Council passed 16.05.010, prohibiting all commercial vehicles, with or without trailers, having a gross vehicle weight in excess of 14,000 pounds on Center Drive from its intersection on McNeil Street to its intersection on Palisade Boulevard.
–Beth doesn’t follow the “rules of her position”. While serving on the Planning Commission, she took info that was in a confidential and “brainstorming/draft” stage to an outside agency, misrepresenting herself as “officially from the City of DuPont” and asking for an assessment. The agency fortunately recognized this as inappropriate and reported her back to the City Staff, for which she was reprimanded. I have concerns about her ability to stay within her lane as a City Council member, if she were to be elected.
RESPONSE: The above comments are similar to the ones Mayor Courts used as one reason to fire me from the Planning Commission. As stated previously, after I retained an attorney at personal expense, I was fully reinstated to my position without any finding of wrongdoing.
-She is talking recently about suing the gravel mine for actions that they legally have the right to pursue. If she persists with this notion, the City of DuPont will more than likely end up in very expensive litigation that it will most likely lose.
RESPONSE: I have never said that I will sue “the gravel mine.” I do, however, have concerns about the mine and I have publicly expressed those concerns on my campaign page, on social media groups, and at the recent Candidate Forum. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has not yet been issued, so it is premature to even discuss litigation or the legal rights of “the gravel” mine now.
In summary, Beth and her closest supporters have created and fostered a very hostile environment in DuPont. The use of threats and intimidation have become standard practice. Her election to City Council would both reward this behavior and put her in a position to pursue actions likely to cause great harm to the City of DuPont. This is not the environment that I want to live in, and I hope the citizens of DuPont are willing to vote for something better.
Please feel free to share this post if you live in DuPont and agree.”
SUMMARY: Robbie Courts is exercising her right to freedom of speech and she has publicly stated that she will not vote for me. In a democracy, each of us has the right to vote for the candidate that best fits our ideals. I have lived in this city for over 25 years. I walked Center Drive when it was nothing but dirt, gravel, and heavy machinery. I have not already predetermined the rights of the “gravel mine” before an EIS has been issued. Clearly, I am not a candidate that best fits her ideals, and I am okay with that.