Monday, February 27, 2012
YAKIMA - Double H Farms of Grandview isn't the only one paying a penalty these days, as the state's Department of Ecology will have to cough up more than $100,000.
That's according to a state appeals court decision last Thursday.
Double H Farms filed suit against the state agency due to a slow response to public information requests.
Double H in 2010 was fined more than $200,000 by the Department of Ecology after the agency received a report of illegal dumping on the farm's Bethany Road property near Grandview. The department's investigation in that case started in 2009.
Double H received more than 3,000 pages of documents in its requests for all electronic materials related to the case, but it took more than a year for the Department of Ecology to comply.
As a result, Double H sued the agency in 2010, claiming it was "improperly denied access to records and had not been provided a reasonable estimate of the response time."
A lower court sided with Double H, granting an award of $102,000, with $88,000 of that in attorney fees.
Double H appealed, feeling the award should have been higher. The decision last week upheld the previous ruling of $102,000.
"We did make mistakes and were not timely in our response," said Department of Ecology spokesperson Joye Redfield-Wilder. "Information was not deliberately withheld and we have changed our approaches and protocols to these kinds of requests," she added.
Redfield-Wilder expressed relief at the appellate court's decision to not increase the award to Double H. "It could have been almost $400,000 they were seeking."
A call to Double H Farms seeking response to last week's court decision was not returned as of press time.
Redfield-Wilder noted the next step is working with Double H to reach a settlement on addressing additional sites that need to be cleaned up.