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Island County commissioner Emerson asks for 30 days before lawsuit action

The attorney for Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson and her husband is asking for at least 30 extra days before a judge hears a motion to throw out their lawsuit against the county.

Stephen Pidgeon, an Everett-based attorney, filed the motion for continuance May 5, along with a new declaration by Kenneth Emerson, the commissioner’s husband. The hearing on the motion for summary judgment is scheduled for May 18.

The Emersons filed their lawsuit Nov. 1, 2010, against former Commissioner John Dean, Planning Director Bob Pederson and building inspector Ron Slechta, alleging defamation, trespass, violation of the Consumer Protection Act and violations of due process and property rights. It was later amended to include Island County. The Emersons asked for unspecified damages.

Kelly Emerson, a Republican, beat Dean in the election.

The litigation surrounds a sunroom Kenneth Emerson started building onto the couple’s Camano Island house last year without a permit. The Emersons claim that Dean and other county employees improperly pursued action, including a stop-work order, against them for political purposes.

Last month, Mark Johnsen, the attorney representing the county, filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the Emersons’ lawsuit is completely groundless. This week he filed a motion asking the judge to deny the continuance.

In his latest declaration, Kenneth Emerson lists a series of reasons for his request to delay the hearing on summary judgment. He writes that someone in Island County government inappropriately redacted information from requested documents, including the name of the individual who made the original complaint against the Emerson’s building project.

Moreover, he wrote that Planning Director Bob Pederson only made himself available for the deposition for four hours, so the questioning wasn’t completed. He claims he also needs to depose Coupeville resident Janice Pickard, a “material witness” who was “in the loop” on certain communications.

In addition, the Emersons hired a wetlands expert who is “inspecting the property and the existing surrounding conditions” and needs more time to finish his analysis.

Finally, Emerson quotes a section of zoning code that pertains to citizen complaints about decisions made by the planning department, though it’s unclear that it relates to a case involving allegations of building without a permit.

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