PORT ORCHARD: A Kitsap County judge has ordered the Port of Kingston to pay out roughly $166,000 to a former Kingston business owner. Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Bassett ruled Friday afternoon that the port owes Beth Brewster about $75,000 in penalties and about $91,000 in legal fees and other costs resulting from her public records lawsuit. Brewster said in a statement Friday that she was pleased with the court for recognizing that the port “repeatedly violated the Public Records Act by withholding information from me,” and said she was weighing her options for any additional legal action.
Brewster has been involved in legal disputes with the port dating back to 2014. Friday’s case addressed 12 records requests Brewster filed in 2014 and 2015 for a separate federal lawsuit against the port, which alleged that she was being treated unfairly by the port because she was a woman and that the port representatives retaliated against her because she had been critical of it. She dropped the federal suit in 2015. In court documents, Brewster said the port violated public records laws by both failing to release requested records and delaying the release of other documents. The port later admitted liability in the case, saying that it had failed to comply with the requests in a timely manner. “What I was put through for simply wanting to be treated equal is unspeakable, especially in this day and age,” Brewster wrote in a statement. “I’ve told many people that I felt like a boxer who’d been put into the ring with her arms tied behind her back.”
Brewster shut down Kingston Adventures, her Central Avenue rental and tour business, in December of last year, citing “exhausting” litigation that had “irreparably damaged” her business. Port Executive Director Jim Pivarnik called the penalties a fair assessment. “It was certainly something that got our attention,” he said. Pivarnik said the port’s ongoing legal struggles have inspired it to put a new focus on its records policies. Pivarnik, who was hired last year after the resignation of former manager David Malone amid the legal trouble, said he’s a strong advocate of open government and noted several changes that have been implemented over the last few months, including a new records policy, a new records officer and an emphasis on transparency. “Everything that is not required to be withheld and redacted will be given out in public records,” Pivarnik said. “That’s my statement to my staff.” A separate public records lawsuit against the port by Kingston resident Tania Issa is pending in Kitsap County Superior Court.