PDN lawsuit against Fordes ends

Posted on Wednesday 17 March 2004

Sequim Gazette

Sue Forde won't be facing the Peninsula Daily News in court any time soon.

The publishing debt the former Republican county commissioner candidate owed the newspaper ended March 15 with an out-of-court settlement. The agreement also halted legal wrangling that questioned the state constitution and alleged politics motivated the lawsuit.

Forde and her husband Bob met with Daily News publisher John Brewer and the president of the collection agency seeking payment of the debt to resolve the issue instead of meeting in court March 18, as scheduled.
"I'm glad it's over," Sue Forde said.

She said she brought a stack of receipts and invoices that tallied the debt and payments made on her account for publishing Citizen News and Olympic Trader Want Ads. According to her calculations, the outstanding debt added up to about $3,200, not the $5,193 cited in the lawsuit filed last September, which added up to nearly $7,000 with interest and legal fees, Forde said.

Brewer reviewed the Fordes' records and accepted the tally so Forde wrote a check and handed it to him, she said.

"It's all done," Forde added.

Brewer said the matter was resolved to his and the collection agency's satisfaction. Gerald Schaefer, president of Peninsula Collection Services, did not return telephone calls.

Brewer did not address details of the settlement and instead referred questions on specifics to the Fordes "because it's their deal."
He added that the couple tried to be constructive about solving the business dispute.

Forde said the matter first came up in 2000, when she and the newspaper disagreed on how her outstanding balance should be resolved.

"It's too bad it took us a court case to get there but they sued us," she said.
The first lawsuit was filed Sept. 9, 2003. The Fordes responded that the collection agency lacked the grounds to sue because the company was licensed by the state of Washington, which they claimed was operating on an invalid constitution.

The Fordes argued that the operating state constitution was improperly adopted in 1889 in place of an earlier 1878 version.

That would mean, according to the Fordes' arguments, that the collection agency - which derives its right to incorporation from the state - did not have a legal right to exist.

The agency dismissed the lawsuit Feb. 20 but Schaefer filed a nearly identical suit in his own name seeking payment on the account the same day but he dropped it a few days later.

However, the Fordes weren't willing to let the matter go. Bob Forde said he wanted his day in court to clear his wife's name and bring the dirty politics he suspected motivated the lawsuit to the light of day. He suggested Brewer and commissioners Mike Chapman, R-Port Angeles, and Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, may have colluded against his wife during the campaign but offered no proof.

Sue Forde ran as a Republican against incumbent Tharinger in the 2003 election. She lost 55 percent to 44 percent.

The Fordes asked the court not to allow the voluntary dismissal of the suits against them unless they were permitted to pursue their counterclaims - one of which sought up to $5 million to be disbursed to a church charity of the Fordes' choice - and special defenses pertaining to the constitution.

They also asked that Schaefer and his wife, Daily News editor Paul Gottlieb, and Brewer be added to the case. The motion to include them alleged that Brewer and Gottlieb conspired to publicly release elements of the dispute to "irreparably harm, injure and damage Sue Forde's reputation and candidacy for Clallam County Commission and advance their own personal interests."
The couple claimed in court documents that Schaefer dismissed the initial case - either on his own or at the instruction of Brewer and Gottlieb - merely to avoid their constitutional defense.

After the out-of-court settlement, Sue Forde said she and her husband are totally done with any lawsuits and are no longer seeking to pursue the constitutional argument or their allegations of political motives. She stopped short of saying she believed those questions had been answered. Forde stated only that the financial dispute had been resolved.
"I'm glad it's over," she repeated.

For his part too, Brewer said he was happy the matter had been resolved.
"The famous conspiracy is done," he said.

-by Leif Nesheim
Gazette staff writer
Published 3.17.04



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