Park board finally calls it quits

Parks District Chairman Larry Walker and frequent critic Kathryn Simpson marked the end of the South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District with a smile and a handshake as Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Anna Laurie signed the dissolution order Friday morning.

The order completed a process started in April when the South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District Board of Commissioners voted to dissolve, ending the board’s 28-year stewardship over the South Kitsap Community Park at Jackson Avenue and Lund Avenue.

Laurie excluded from the order an added request from the district’s lawyer, Tony Otto, to bar any future claims against the board. Laurie turned it down because it was entered in the record too late for public notice.

Otto’s request referred to a threatened, but not official, discrimination complaint by SKPRD Commissioner Warren Collver against Otto and two members of the now-defunct board.

“The District is dissolved, and I don’t want to bar any claims he has against the individuals,” Laurie explained, conceding it would be difficult to file a claim against a non-existant board.

The order dispursed the remaining funds of the District, most going to Otto for attorney fees. Otto received $2,734.70 for his work. The county received a $200 filing fee and $37.13 for the publication notice of the initial hearing.

Collver was not present at the hearing, and as of Friday the Human Rights Commission had not received a necessary complaint questionnaire from him.

After making initial contact, the Commission mailed a letter and questionnaire to Collver. Commission Executive Director Marc Brenman said the questionnaire did not have a specific deadine, but had to be officially filed within 180 days of the last perceived discriminatory action.

When Collver addressed the board at its final meeting on July 12, he explained he would pursue a claim against individual members of the board, maintaining that it would not hinder the dissolution — which he strongly supported.

Collver briefly retracted the complaints before the final meeting, explaining that a conversation with Simpson, a long-time supporter of dissolution, and an apology from one of the current board members — but not one of the two commissioners he accuses of discrimination — prompted him to leave it alone.

He restated his plans to pursue the complaint after hearing of phone calls to the Commission from Otto. Collver claims Otto falsely represented him in the calls.

Otto denies this.

Otto has questioned Collver’s representation of his complaints, citing what he called “inconsistant statements.” Otto said Collver claimed that the complaint had been mailed, but that has not yet been received.

In an e-mail to Otto, Collver stated that he had 60 days to file.

“I think the odds of them formally filing a complaint against the members is close to nothing,” Otto said. “I think the big news here is Warren Collver is a liar.”

If the complaint stood at the hearing, slowing the dissolution process, the district could have accrued election debt for a district with no park to maintain.

Several residents initially applied for open seats on the District in the coming election. One of the applicants, Simpson, said with the park in the hands of the county, she no longer wished to pursue the seat, and attempted to rescind her bid.

The District’s now-former chair, Walker, said the board members could now resume their lives, noting that Collver’s complaints are “totally specious, with no merit.”

Otto said he would represent the individual members if a complaint becomes official, but added that he thinks any formal litigation is unlikely.

The dissolution ends years of strained relations between the District, several South Kitsap residents and Kitsap County. The board accrued $30,000 in election debt in 2005, prompting the county to take legal action.

After a number of negotiations back and forth, the county agreed to drop the debt and invest $1.2 million into South Kitsap Community Park if the board dissolved.

The board eventually voted to approve dissolution, but not before considering a no-interest loan from Lee’s Repair Shop owner and husband of Commissioner Margie Rees’ husband, Leon Rees.

In June, the park signed a quit-release form, officially handing over ownership of the park to Kitsap County. County employees, United Way Volunteers and members of the District immediately began cleaning up the park.

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