County Roundup: A Safe Drug Site Ban and Taco Tax Dodge

A weekly recap of King County news.

1. It’s official—a supervised consumption site will never cross into Issaquah’s city limits.

After enacting a six-month moratorium on the sites last October, the Issaquah City Council unanimously voted on Monday to permanently ban the sites, which have also been called Community Health Engagement Locations.

Based on a recommendation by its Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force, King County intends to open up two sites to give addicts a place to access clean needles (and thereby reduce the spread of bloodborne illnesses), get information on rehab as well as medical treatment, and inject drugs in the presence of medical professionals who can help in the case of an overdose.

In banning the sites, Issaquah joins a long list of cities — including Bellevue, Sammamish, Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, Black Diamond, Burien, Maple Valley, Renton and SeaTac — that took permanent action to ensure that the two sites are not housed in their jurisdictions.

While the majority of speakers at public meetings over the past few months have urged the city to ban supervised consumption sites, there has been a vocal group—including parents of young people who died of heroin overdoses—that has emphasized to the city that consumption sites save lives.

“When this topic first came up, I was very moved by stories from members of the community who have lost loved ones to overdoses from opioids,” Councilmember Paul Winterstein said. “It’s hard to say no to a parent who is pursuing something that they think would have saved a lost child.” Issaquah-Sammamish Reporter

2. The owner of a string of Mexican restaurants in Snohomish and King counties is facing felony theft charges after audits allegedly turned up evidence he’s stolen more than $5.6 million in state taxes using software that partially masked his commercial success.

The case was built in part on state employees going undercover on 35 occasions to order lunches and dinners, according to documents filed this week in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Salvador Sahagun, 57, of Bothell, used sales-suppression software at six Tacos Guaymas restaurants he operates at locations in Marysville, Lynnwood, and Seattle to avoid paying appropriate taxes, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Sahagun is charged with two counts of first-degree theft and one count of unlawful use of sales-suppression software. The felonies carry with them potential prison time and steep fines.

The case marks only the second time state prosecutors have brought tax-theft charges on behalf of the state Department of Revenue for alleged use of sale-suppression software, said the agency’s communications manager, Anna Gill. The earlier case involved a Bellevue restaurant and nearly $400,000 in stolen taxes.

Restaurants and other businesses in Washington are required to report their gross receipts from retail sales and to pay the appropriate taxes on those transactions, Andrew Hamilton, an assistant state attorney general, said in court papers. Everett Herald

3. Last Wednesday, DaShawn Horne awoke after being in a coma for nearly seven weeks. According to the family members, his eyes were able to track movement, and he was able to wiggle his toes.

The 26-year-old Auburn man is unable to speak, said uncle Rodney King, but doctors hope with treatment he soon will be able to talk again.

On Saturday, friends and family gathered for a barbecue, where they prayed for Horne’s recovery. The occasion marked 50 days since Horne was admitted to Harborview Medical Center where he has been receiving care for a traumatic head injury and other wounds.

The African-American man, a mail handler for the U.S. Postal Service, was severely beaten, allegedly at the hands of an aluminum-baseball-bat-swinging Auburn man, on Jan. 20.

Law enforcement officials have called the beating a hate-crime attack. As Horne continues to make progress, the case has made its way to court.

Julian Tuimauga, 18, pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault and malicious harassment, the state’s statute for hate crimes, at his Feb. 5 arraignment in King County Superior Court at Kent’s Maleng Regional Justice Center.

Tuimauga, who is listed as Asian in court documents, is in county jail on $500,000 bail. The trial-setting date was continued to March 29.

The Horne family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of DaShawn’s recovery. T-shirt sales at the barbecue helped raise money for the family. Auburn Reporter

4. The final Environmental Impact Statement for Puget Sound Energy’s Energize Eastside project is complete after three years of work.

Energize Eastside is a proposed 230,000-volt trasmission line that would run along 9 miles on the Eastside. The $300 million project is scheduled for construction in summer 2018 after Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy is able to complete permitting to build in Bellevue, Newcastle, Renton and, later, Redmond.

Led by the city of Bellevue, the 4,800 page final EIS concludes the project may be safely built and operated, according to Diann Strom, a spokeswoman for Energize Eastside.

City officials will use the document as they look over Puget Sound Energy’s permit applications.

“They use this document to help inform their permitting process and permitting requirements,” Strom said, adding that the utility company sees the finalization of the EIS as “another step forward” in launching Energize Eastside.

But community group CENSE (Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy), which has been opposed to the project for environmental reasons, views the permitting process as another opportunity to change its course.

Don Marsh, president of CENSE, said the permit hearings will be heard by each city’s hearing examiner and if the final decision is appealed, the decision will fall upon each city’s council to determine the project’s future.

This would then allow CENSE to make their case.

“… PSE’s proposal ignores Washington State’s environmental policy goals,” Marsh said in a news release. “Advanced technology can improve electrical reliability, reduce carbon emissions and save money for customers. CENSE is ready to work with PSE and our elected officials to create an energy grid that benefits people and the environment.”

CENSE said they retained energy experts to testify at public permit hearings in the coming months. Bellevue Reporter