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Sunnyside strikes deal with motel owners

A jury trial was averted in Sunnyside Municipal Court yesterday when the city of Sunnyside and motel owners Fred and Helen Kim reached a settlement.

The case began in June when Sunnyside police charged the couple with permitting or maintaining a nuisance at the Townhouse Motel they own near Sixth Street and Yakima Valley Highway. The motel had been the site of 97 police calls in the past three years.

The Kims were scheduled to go to trial yesterday, Thursday, but that was cancelled when Judge Steven Michels approved the stipulated order of continuance.

The continuance dismisses the charges as long as the Kims comply with the agreement. It requires the couple to maintain their motel property in a clean, neat and presentable fashion and to cooperate with city officials.

Terms of the agreement were negotiated between the Kims, their attorney Doug Garrison, city prosecutors and police. They include requirements for the motel owners to report suspicious activity or persons and comply with BEST standards.

The acronym for Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking, BEST practices required of the Kims range from attending training classes to installing security cameras.

Under the BEST system outlined in yesterday’s agreement, the Townhouse’s requirements will also include training employees in detecting signs of possible illegal activity, establishing quiet hours and ensuring vehicles, guests and visitors at the motel are all registered in the front office.

The city of Sunnyside also has responsibilities under terms of the deal.

They include requiring city officials to cease and desist from making threats against the Kims, contacting the couple if there is a perceived problem with a tenant prior to police action and not blocking the Kims’ retail property at 16th Street and Edison Avenue.

In approving the deal between Sunnyside and the Kims, Michels praised the couple for steps they have already taken to clean up the motel. “I’m glad this has worked out,” he said.

Yesterday’s agreement wraps up a long journey through Sunnyside’s legal system for the Kims.

The couple had an original trial date in July cancelled when city prosecutor Kathleen Hitchcock was charged with DUI by the Washington State Patrol.

A re-scheduled trial in August had to again be postponed because Hitchcock’s replacement previously sat as a judge on one of the Kims’ previous hearings.

Fred Kim praised Sunnyside police for their help in drawing up an agreement and says he’s happy to finally have the case resolved.

“It feels great!” he smiled.

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