The dispute over the city’s handling of public records from a previous city council will now continue after former council member Ramiro Valderrama, who was the plaintiff in the case, filed an appeal to the state appellate court.
The appeal comes after the King County Superior Court issued a summary judgment dismissing the lawsuit in December.
The long-running case started in March 2023, when Valderrama sued the City of Sammamish for allegedly failing to preserve communications between several city council members as public records, and for failing to take legal action to obtain those records.
However, the Dec. 15 ruling by Judge Paul M. Crisalli concluded that the City is not legally obligated to sue former council members to obtain those records. The court also concluded that the City’s efforts to obtain those records from current Councilmember Kent Treen, and former council members Christie Malchow and Ken Gamblin, were adequate.
Valderrama appealed the decision to the state appellate court on Jan. 11.
Valderrama believes the Superior Court order contradicted the testimony and evidence, and that the court ignored his allegation that the City turned a blind eye towards destruction of public records.
“We specifically cited that tens of thousands [of records] have been destroyed,” Valderrama said in an interview with the Sammamish Independent. “City employees and staff—current and past—were doing that.”
Many of those destroyed records that Valderrama alleged came from communications on private messaging apps, including WhatsApp and Slack. However, the court found the evidence that Valderrama presented, which was based on witness depositions, to be “hearsay and speculation.”
If Valderrama wins his appeal, he still plans to seek the maximum penalty for the city, with all proceeds going to charity.
When asked for a statement in the case, the city’s communication manager Ryan Rodruck replied that “the city does not comment on pending litigation.”
You can read the appeal filing, and the original King County Superior Court decision, here.