Governor signs Padden bill to require mediation between elected officials before lawsuits begin

Measure will save taxpayers money, says Spokane Valley lawmaker

Today Sen. Mike Padden’s legislation to avoid costly litigation between elected officials was signed into law.

“This new law is a common-sense way to deal with disputes between elected officials before they escalate into lawsuits that cost taxpayers money,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “I am pleased to see that all of my colleagues agreed that we needed a solution to this problem, and that local governments will soon have a new tool to help resolve disagreements.”

Substitute Senate Bill 5560 cleared the Legislature on April 25 with unanimous support. Under the measure, county officials engaged in a dispute while acting in their official capacities must participate in mediation before resorting to a lawsuit.

Officials covered by the law includes:

  • any elected or appointed county officer as listed in the Revised Code of Washington;
  • equivalent positions in charter counties, whether elected or appointed; and
  • superior, district, and municipal court judges located within the county.
Sen. Shelly Short calls the bill ‘huge’ for taxpayers.

Padden noted how recent disagreements between county officials have led to costly lawsuits, often because officials with big personalities don’t want to lose face. He points out that mediation is a helpful tool in many other disputes, and can be especially useful when both parties require a confidential means of settling disputes.

Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, agrees, calling the measure a big help for jurisdictions going forward.

“It’s a huge deal for local governments and taxpayers,” said Short, who serves as the lead Republican on the Senate Local Government Committee and helped craft the bill.

“We had a situation in our district, where judges got into a dispute with county commissioners. Unfortunately, the dispute quickly escalated and got tied up in the political process.

“This new law provides an intermediate step – a more productive process – that could have helped us had it been in place at the time, and will be a very useful tool moving forward.”

The law created by Padden’s bill will go into effect July 28.