Forde responds to lawsuit with counterclaims; PDN quits case

Feb. 22, 2004

by Lois Krafsky, Citizen Review Online

Clallam County, WA - On the same day that Sue and Bob Forde filed their response to the court charging the Peninsula Daily News (PDN) with breach of contract as to the balance, terms and other issues in a controversial lawsuit over an alleged debt of $5,193.19 – and demanded damages in the amount of $5 million” – the attorney for the plaintiff, Peninsula Collection Services (PCS) acting on instructions from the Peninsula Daily News (PDN), filed a notice of dismissal of action, ending the lawsuit.

PDN publisher John Brewer had instructed the collection service to instigate the lawsuit last year toward the end of Sue Forde’s campaign for Clallam county commissioner District 1; and then did an interview with the Sequim Gazette about the issue which appeared on the front page of the paper one week before the election. The statements Brewer made in the article – which allowed no time for rebuttal by Forde prior to the election – were untrue, according to Forde.

Because the disputed bill was involved in a lawsuit, Forde did not think it proper to speak about the issue, she said, and believed it better to leave to the courts to decide. Now it appears the court will not have the opportunity to hear the facts as presented by Forde on the matter, an interesting ploy on the part of the PDN.

Forde’s response filed with the court on Feb. 20, 2004, disputed the amount of the debt, and claimed a breach of contract over the amount, the terms, the overcharges, and the substandard and inconsistent printing. Forde further stated that the action on the part of the newspaper brought the action to “irreparably harm, injure and damage” the former candidate, and asked for an order for specific performance under the original contract as agreed to in 1996 – and an award of “exemplary, presumptive and/or irreparable damages –in an amount to be determined at trial of five million dollars, whichever is less – to be disbursed to a church charity of [their] choice.”

Gerald W. Grimes, attorney for the Peninsula Collection Services (Peninsula Daily News) filed a notice of dismissal of action that same day – dismissing the action as to all defendants without prejudice.

“It’s extremely interesting to me that this lawsuit should be dismissed on the same day as our response was filed,” said Sue Forde. “We are prepared to deliver our written evidence to the court, showing that John Brewer, publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, made false statements about the disputed account, and only one week before election day, when there was no time for a response.”

Brewer had stated in a front-page article that the account had a balance of $2,000 when he arrived in at the paper in 1997, and that the balance had subsequently risen to over $5,000. In fact, invoices from the PDN show the balance was over $12,000 in 1996, and that Forde had paid more than $7,000 toward the account balance over and above the regular printing charges for current publications under terms agreed upon between the PDN and her over a three-year period – until a dispute arose in 1999 when the paper arbitrarily decided to change the terms of payment, breaching the original contract, according to Forde. In addition, Forde stated that she has the evidence to show that the PDN was charging double taxes on the account. A period of attempted negotiations followed on the part of Forde, with the end result being that the PDN cut off printing further issues and demanded the amount in full.

After consulting with an attorney, Forde said she continued making the originally agreed-upon payments, which were to apply toward a principal reduction (the paper had agreed to waive any late charges or interest on their part in the original agreement). But when the invoices began tacking on late charges and the double taxation was discovered, the parties came to an impasse. Forde demanded adherence to the original agreement; the PDN responded by turning the account over to collection.

Forde sent copies of the PDN’s invoices and correspondence to the collection agency’s manager at the time, who said she would discuss the matter with the newspaper. No further action was taken until Forde was suddenly served with notice of a lawsuit in September 2003 – less than two months before the election. “I called the collection agency to inquire why they hadn’t contacted me for further negotiation,” Forde stated, “and they referred me to their attorney, Penny Jackson.” Forde said she asked her husband to attempt a final negotiation, and he arranged for a meeting with the collection service, the PDN and the attorney. An attractive offer was made to clear the account, Bob Forde says, with a witness present. The offer was refused, with the statement from the attorney Jackson that it would be “too bad if this matter hit the media, that it might affect Sue’s election.” Bob responded that it sounded like extortion to him, to which Jackson replied he should interpret it however he wished.

Since an impasse existed, the Fordes decided to let the matter to the courtroom to be decided. “I knew we had plenty of written evidence to support our case,” said Sue Forde, and was looking forward to presenting that evidence to a jury, the next step after the response was made and statements were gathered from various witnesses. “For reasons only to be speculated upon, the PDN has decided to quit the case,” said Forde.

Click here to see copy of dismissal filed on Feb. 20, 2004 by the Plaintiff.



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