PLIC Legal Services Agreement

Submitted by Stuart Rich for PLIC on 3/5/10, edited for formatting by Colleen.

PLIC is please to announce that the Board has executed a new retainer agreement with Gordon Thomas Honeywell to further our goal to secure an affordable long-term lease at Gooseberry Point.  The terms of the retainer agreement include; a three month duration, fixed cost (capped) at $12,000 per month with estimated costs of $1,600 per month, and may be terminated by PLIC at the end of any month.   GTH will provide the community written updates on a weekly basis which will be published in the Ferry Forum. We welcome questions regarding the new GTH agreement. 

March 3, 2010
Gordon Thomas Honeywell
James C. Waldo
Direct: (253) 620-6541
E-mail: jwaldo@gth-Iaw.com

Dea r Stuart:
When you hired Gordon Thomas Honeywell and Charla Neuman in early January you asked us to help you accomplish the primary goal of securing long-term ferry service between Lummi Island and Gooseberry Point. Protect Lummi Island
Community (PLIC) took significant strides toward accomplishing that goal in the last 45 days. The Lummi Island community is now in a position to decide whether they want to pursue a strategy to help ensure the Lummi Nation and Whatcom County follow through on their negotiations and reach an agreement that keeps ferry costs and schedules reasonable for islanders.

As you are aware, the Lummi Nation and Whatcom County announced an agreement in principle to continue long-term ferry service from Gooseberry Point, with the cautionary note that the details had not been worked out and many issues are still unknown and may take some time to resolve. Some of the key items still up for debate between the Lummi Nation and Whatcom County include how often the ferry would run, at what cost to the County and ferry users, what sources of funding are they exploring, and what other terms are being negotiated or could be used to help lighten the burden in other areas.

At the beginning of this process, both parties had made it clear they were not considering any agreement that would include long-term service at Gooseberry Point.  The primary strategy Gordon Thomas Honeywell and Charla Neuman agreed to was to quietly work so that the parties involved would be compelled to reconsider the advantages of long-term service, setting aside existing short-term proposals. This could only be done through a process that was sensitive to the delicate negotiations at play and working behind the scenes to bring other compelling forces into play. Any risk of pointing fingers or implying wrongdoing or creating unnecessary conflict by anyone needed to be avoided and all sides needed to find a winning scenario.

Our initial scope of work included developing and implementing a legal, governmental and educational strategy to accomplish the PLIC goal. We conducted legal research regarding potential federal legal strategies to be used in the event that ferry service would be terminated. We used our research and other actions to move both Whatcom County and the Lummi Nation to maintain the Gooseberry Point ferry service. In cooperation with Ms. Neuman we communicated the Islanders’ concerns to the County and Tribe. We have completed the work contemplated in our initial scope of services. Now you have requested that we provide the PLIC with additional services to assure that the agreement between the Tribe and County is successfully concluded and implemented. Moving forward, there are places where the community can be more aggressive in advocating for beneficial terms because of how the situation has evolved. Our additional scope of services builds on the work that was completed and will move you closer to accomplishing your goal of assuring long-term ferry service to Lummi Island from Gooseberry Point in a manner that is consistent with the interests of the residents of Lummi Island, the Lummi Nation, and Whatcom County.

These services will again include implementing legal, governmental, and educational strategies and will be expanded to include a financial strategy component and more aggressive public communications and persuasion, as well. We will:

• work with the County and Tribe to assure that the agreement for ferry services is fully implemented;
• work with your local, state and federal representatives to identify financial resources that are available to assure that the agreement between the Tribe and County is financially successful;
• provide written updates on a weekly basis.

Recognizing your need to obtain funding from Island residents, the risk that you accept on behalf of the residents to pay for our services, and the commitment that you will be making to Gordon Thomas Honeywell to pay for our services, we propose a fixed cost 30-day professional service retainer. Our retainer will be $12,000.00 per 30-day period plus our out-of-pocket costs. We estimate that the costs will be approximately $1,600.00 per month and they will be billed separately. At your discretion, and based upon reasonable notice to us, you may terminate this agreement at the end of any month. Likewise, you will need to provide us with reasonable notice that you want us to continue to represent you for each succeeding month. This agreement begins on the date of your acceptance of this proposal as acknowledged by your signature below.

In pursuing the objectives above, we look forward to strengthening your working with the Island community and Whatcom County and between the Island community and the Lummi Nation to accomplish your goal of long-term ferry service from Gooseberry Point to Lummi Island. We applaud you for your past successes and are excited about our long-term relationship. If you have any questions about this proposal, please let us know.
Very truly yours,
Jim Waldo
Robert N. Caldwell

4 thoughts on “PLIC Legal Services Agreement

  1. Can someone please point me to where GHT’s retainer agreement states (per Stuart’s introductory paragraph) that this is just a 3-month agreement? I found the bit about the Client (PLIC board???) being able to stop GHT’s services at the end of each month. But I didn’t see where GHT indicated that their retainer agreement was for 3 months. Am I missing something?

  2. The County and the Lummi Nation are moving ahead — at “our urging” on negotiating an agreement for a new lease for ferry facilities at Gooseberry point. (That is good and about time by the County.)

    1. In that context, Is a “retainer” for lawyers at $12,000 per month (plus $1,600 per month in “costs”) necessary if the law firm has no seat at the negotiating table?

    2. What can the lawyers do that we can’t or other cost-effective ways might accomplish? What is their unique niche?

    3. Are we being a good neighbor by continuing to retain lawyers? What might be the physiological costs to us.

  3. The retainer agreement will transfer substantial sums of money from (some) islanders to GHT lawyers and their PR person. Guess that’s ok for those with deep enough pockets, but I sure hope it doesn’t leave the false impression that the majority of Lummi Islanders are so well-heeled that we can afford to shell out so much, monthly, for an undetermined period.

    I sure can’t afford this pricey arrangement. Besides, like Chuck, I’ve some concerns with this legal/PR path that the PLIC board has chosen. For example, I know for certain that it is not cost efficient to pay so much to GHT for their scope of work item ‘working with officials to identify funding sources’. First, experienced grant writers charge far less for such things than GHT. Second, the island has many residents who’ve been successful in finding, writing and shepherding federal and state grants through the system who could be hired to do this at more reasonable rates (or even volunteer their time, though in these hard economic times payment should be considered if funds are available.) It just doesn’t make sense to pay GHT to do this.

  4. Like most of us on the island, we all have our ideas of how best to accomplish our goals regarding the ferry. Wynne and I are no exception. I would really like to find a way to insure that we have effective advocates working with the County and Tribe on our behalf that is less expensive than hiring the GHT lawyers.
    With that in mind, I am wondering if anyone in our community has an alternative approach that can help us find the money we need to satisfy the requirements of the Tribe, while keeping our need for an affordable ferry, with good service in the forefront of the County’s considerations.
    I’m no grant writer, but I’ve been told that getting grants granted is something of a crapshoot, and the process involves a whole lot of time. My take on our ferry situation is that we don’t have much time, and our only hope is to be a persistent presence in this ferry scenario, hopefully a presence with connections and experience in working with government and Tribes. If anyone has an approach that would work better, please send your thoughts and ideas to the Ferry Forum! We need to consider everything.
    In the meantime, investing what we can afford in GHT could be a good decision for our future, at least until we come up with something better.

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