By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly
While Medina citizens are still divided on the issue, the Medina City Council is deciding what the city’s next move will be following the Chen ruling that took place on March 26. A jury presided over by federal Judge Thomas S. Zilly ruled that the firing of former Medina Police Chief Jeffrey Chen was racially motivated. The jury awarded him over $2 million in back pay and damages.
The city has the option of appealing the judgment, but that decision does not rest with the city council. Rather, the decision ultimately lies with the City of Medina’s insurance provider, the Washington Cities Insurance Authority (WCIA). The WCIA, an insurance pool made up of over 150 Washington cities, also provided the attorneys that represented the city during the trial.
Medina Mayor Michael Luis will be meeting with the WCIA on Friday, April 12 to communicate the city’s opinion.
During the public comment period of the April 8 Medina City Council meeting, which attracted over two dozen of the city’s 3,000 residents, many spoke against appealing the decision.
Others advised taking due time to review the city’s position before coming to a decision.
“I personally disagree with the conclusion that the jury came to,” said Dan Sheeran, a Medina resident of 12 years. “But my primary point is not about that. My point is that, regardless of our opinions, I think the most important thing for the city council to do is to not be rushed. It’s important to take your time and not to take action because of pressure from any type of place because, in these types of situations, rushed decisions are often wrong in the long term.”
Multiple attendees echoed this sentiment.
“I’m here to say that I wish that the council would take their time in coming to a decision,” said Mark Nelson, a former council member. “… I think that if the council moves to take any action now, it’s premature.”
However, many attendees believed that an appeal should not take place.
“Throughout the last two years of this matter, we’ve all heard that ‘if you only knew what we knew, you would certainly feel very differently regarding Chief Chen’ from members of the city council. We’ve now had 11 days of trial with a completely impartial group in the federal justice system and what they found is they believed Chief Chen and his witnesses. I think it’s important to listen to that. You have to respect the justice system, that’s why we have it. … If WCIA pays out the judgment, what it says in that document is that our future assessments will recover the amount that they pay out in our behalf. It sounds like we will be paying $500,000 a year for the next five years at least to recover that. For two years, we’ve been trying to get you to pay attention. We could have settled this for $100,000,” said Terry Drayton, prompting applause from many of the attendees.
Following the remainder of the general session, the Medina City Council went into two executive sessions, one to privately discuss pending litigation involving the city and one to review the performance of a public employee. The session to review the performance of a public employee was continued on Wednesday, April 10.
The city council has yet to make a public announcement concerning their desire to pursue an appeal.
Immediately following the announcement of the ruling in March, Marianne Jones, Chen’s attorney, acknowledged the possibility of an appeal in an interview with the Northwest Asian Weekly, but said that one would have little merit considering Zilly’s diligence in the case. (end)
Charles Lam can be reached at email@example.com.