OLYMPIA — Embattled initiative promoter Tim Eyman may soon have a lawyer again.
And it is a well-known name: Richard Sanders, a former state Supreme Court justice.
“To finally have somebody who is tough as nails is a godsend,” Eyman said Monday evening. “He knows what he’s doing and for nine months I haven’t.”
Sanders, who practices law in Tacoma, conditioned the deal on Eyman giving Attorney General Bob Ferguson unfettered access to the bank accounts through which the activist’s private and political lives are funded.
“First, you MUST comply with the court’s orders, like it or not,” Sanders wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to Eyman. “If there are other discovery issues, I will work with you and the state to cure any deficiencies after I am authorized to appear on your behalf.”
Eyman set out do that Monday.
He filed a motion asking Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon to reconsider a sanction he imposed Sept. 13.
He submitted materials including written permission for the Office of the Attorney General to gather “all information” from five personal bank accounts and five other bank accounts related to his legal defense. He also included the letter he received from Sanders.
“We’re blowing off the barn doors,” Eyman exclaimed Monday evening. “This should erase any justification for the non-monetary sanction.”
Dixon ruled that nearly $800,000 collected by Eyman between February 2012 and July 2018 should be treated as contributions in support of his political endeavors and not gifts for personal use. He took the action because Eyman has been in contempt of discovery orders for 19 months and racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Those are in addition to the $2.1 million in penalties Ferguson is seeking in his lawsuit accusing Eyman of secretly moving campaign funds between two initiatives in 2012. The suit, filed in March 2017, also alleges Eyman received hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from one of the signature-gathering vendors. Eyman has denied wrongdoing.
Ferguson also is seeking to bar Eyman from managing, controlling, negotiating or directing financial transactions of any kind for any political committee in the future. The trial is now set for July 2020.
Eyman filed for bankruptcy last year and has been defending himself since the start of the year.
He has resisted letting the state probe the records of all of his bank accounts, especially those used to cover the legal costs which he said total around $900,000. No longer if it means securing Sanders’ services.
“He has made clear he’s in charge,” Eyman said.
Court records indicate Ferguson has had access to some personal bank account information, but Eyman has not answered all the state’s questions about funds received in those accounts.
“Mr. Eyman has been obstructing our effort to enforce our state’s campaign finance laws from day one,” Ferguson said in statement Tuesday. “He has been in contempt of court for the better part of two years. Because of his obstruction, his banks have already destroyed two years of records. Mr. Eyman needs to start complying with judicial orders,” he said. “We hope that he will. Ultimately, a judge will decide.”
Sanders, who served on the high court from 1995-2010, is associated with the Goodstein Law Group in Tacoma.
He’s known to have a strong libertarian streak. He’s quite familiar with Eyman and the legal furor he generates with his initiatives. Sanders participated in court decisions on the legality of several of his ballot measures.
He’s not on board yet.
A federal bankruptcy judge must approve Sanders’ hiring as it represents a new creditor for Eyman.
The state could ask the judge to not allow it. The state did object to the hiring of attorney Joel Ard earlier this year and Ard bowed out, leaving the political activist to defend himself. It’s not known how the state will respond to Sanders.
“The thing that killed Tim is not having a lawyer, and the state did everything it could to discourage him from getting a lawyer,” Sanders said. “It’s a lot better to litigate with someone that doesn’t have a lawyer.”
The hearing in federal bankruptcy court is set for Oct. 17.