Emerson’s statement on settlement with County

July 1, 2013

My husband Ken and I have settled our three-year dispute with Island County over the creation of a new patio in our backyard.

Island County has agreed to cancel its $37,000 in fines and has agreed to return $2,000 in filing fees we paid earlier. In return, we have agreed to pay Island County a nominal $5,000 to acknowledge that we made mistakes in the permitting process. And, our third scientific report from a licensed, qualified hydro-geologist will be given to Island County shortly.

Two previous reports from licensed qualified hydro-geologists found no wetlands on our property and we fully expect that the third report will reach the same conclusion. Ken and I paid for all three of these reports. The costs we have incurred have been in excess of $50,000. We will not be reimbursed for those costs. 

In many respects, our story of our painful dealings with local government over land use issues is a story that has been repeated many times by many individuals who have been subjected to pressure from a powerful government.

In our case, I became an elected official and my husband Ken became President of the Island County Chapter of Citizens Alliance for Property Rights.

We are relieved that our private nightmare is coming to an end, but we remain concerned about what happens to other property owners in similar circumstances.

If our county budget could afford it, I would support the appointment of a County Ombudsman or Ombudswoman who citizens could go to when they feel government bureaucrats are overstepping or abusing their authority. This has been successful in other jurisdictions, including in King County.

Today, a large majority of Americans nationwide do not trust our government at any level.

As Chair of the Island County Commission, I am trying hard to build renewed confidence in our own public institution. My own difficult experience is nearly over now, but I have learned a lot, and I want to put those lessons into action to protect our citizens – our customers – from government overreach.

For those of you who may want to know the ‘gritty details,’ the following is a summary of what happened to Ken and I over the past three-plus years.

My husband started enclosing a patio in our back yard which I wanted for egress from the second floor of the home in case of a fire.  He assured me he would get the necessary permit when the offices were open the next week. 

Our neighbors, hearing the activity, complained directly to the incumbent I was challenging and the complaint was acted on before any formal process took place.  To our surprise, documentation was found in the county records alleging we had a wetland on our property. 

With no evidence of where the alleged wetland was, it was assumed we violated it with some earlier landscaping work and enforcement orders began.

Stunned by the brazen nature of all this, the guilty until proven innocent approach, we went after the real violators who didn’t follow their own code.  Filing suit against them individually (Bob Pedersen the Planning Director, the incumbent commissioner who received the complaint and the inspector who made no effort to contact us or get the necessary warrant) gave the county a way of escaping the law suit.

Commissioner’s Price-Johnson and Homola brought the county in anyway by offering to defend the improperly acting staff.

My first week in office, I was greeted by a second enforcement order claiming $37,000 in fines.  Feeling the harassment from the county, we added them to the lawsuit.  We prepared for our day in court and even hired a hydro-geologist who concluded we had no wetland.

Judge Hancock would not allow the evidence, stating the planning director had the discretion to amend the order based on the new evidence. 

No extension was granted, the case was dismissed.  Commissioner’s Price-Johnson and Homola went after us for legal fees which Judge Hancock denied. 

The Planning Director, Bob Pederson, never amended the order.  Instead, he sent a misleading letter to the DOE and asked for their review.  Ultimately he denied the study of a state licensed scientist without filing a complaint with the licensing board.

He then repeated the actions with our second state licensed hydro-geologist review.

At this point, we gave up.  We needed the opportunity to present the evidence to a judicial body and that couldn’t happen until the permit was denied.

Never mind all the facts, corruption and abuse of power, what really mattered to the media and the dissenters, was that apparently the Emersons were destroying the planet and expecting to get away with it.

So here we are, almost exactly three years and $50,000 later, (that is our contribution, who knows what this has cost us taxpayers) being forced to provide a third study and pay $5,000.


  1. Hearty congrats on the settlement. As I said earlier publicly, I hope everybody can walk away and feel justice was done, once serious reforms are implemented in Island County Planning.

    Sadly it cost the good guys a lot of $$.

    1. Joseph, What you see publically is not all that they lost. If anyone ever wonders why good people refuse to get involved in politics they need look no further that this politically motivated attack.

      When the entire truth and facts come out it is going to be an eye opener for everyone. This is not over by a long shot. While we may have resolution of the immediate issue the underlying issue of how our county government became a vehicle of attack in a political issue has not been resolved. This has been THE saddest example of an out of control government and a government used for political smear attacks I have ever seen. Eventually the truth and facts will come out…

      1. I await the entire truth and facts.

        At least the new publisher of the Whidbey News-Times isn’t a lefty radical who pal’d around w/ the Pickards.

  2. Now that the saga of Emerson’s bogus wetlands issue is in it’s final chapter, what’s Commissioner Price-Johnson to do when she and ex Commissioner Homola’ can no longert stir the pot for their fan club with all of their past chants?

    They, and their followers at every opportunity, would attack Emerson with caustic words about Ken and Kelly Emerson’s legal problems with County Planning, etc, i.e.:

    “A citizen who is seeking a paid public servant position while knowingly disregarding permitting requirements fails to acknowledge fiscal or civic responsibility. When that citizen then seeks retribution for their own malice, they compromise scarce tax payer resources and condone code violation,”

    “It’s time for Ms. Emerson to pay up, cease her private vendetta against her own county, and start acting like the government leader she was elected to be.”

    “…not endorse Emerson until the long-standing matter is resolved, once and for all”.
    “Until those are done, I don’t feel I can give you my support,”

    “I don’t believe a leader of an organization should be at odds with the organization. I think that’s a huge stumbling block in leadership.”

    “Emerson’s adversarial relationship and an alleged unavailability with county employees to Emerson’s issues regarding her Camano home”

    “She has cost island county money and will cost island county residents even more, and then she will do everything she can to fire anyone who was involved in any way with the mess when it was all caused be her and her husband.”

    …etc. etc. etc….

    Poor Helen, It’s now back to the drawing boards for her; She must come up with a new batch of reasons to recreate Commissioner Emerson again as her “Hate God” for her political survival; just as the Nazi movement used it as a rallying point against the Jews.

    1. At the July 1, Commissioners meeting at the end where Commissioners make comments, Kelly announced the resolution to their wetland building permit saga
      Price-Johnson with a point of order interruption tried to stop Kelly by stating that was a personal matter and should not be commented on as part of Commissioner comments
      DUH, that rational never stopped Price-Johnson from making references to the Emerson wetland.permit fiasco many times in the past when she wanted to insult Emerson in their meetings
      Perfect example of HPJ’s hypocracy of “do as I say; not as I do”

      1. Of course she tried to stop Kelly.
        Helen Johnson only wants one side of the story told. This is the same we have seen at the recent OLF meeting where only certain ZIP codes were allowed and also with the recent survey only sent to certain selected people. Helen Price Johnson is not a Commissioner for all citizens of the Islands she is only a Commissioner for those special interest groups that she can generate support from.

      2. Nor the comments of mouthy little Angie Homola or nasty Jill Johnson. Real concern: Kellys term as Chair may be shorter than expected. We have yet to see the extent that Price Johnson will go. And Jills propensity to boil over will likely grow

        1. I am truely disappointed in Jill. Even more so than I alread was. When she made the comment “your chair by my grace, your chair by my vote” it tells me that she expected something in return from Kelly when she voted for Kelly as chair. Unfortunately for Jill, Kelly does not work for Jill, Kelly works for the citizens of this county as Jill should, not for the Island County Commissioners office.

          Jill stated “she would always represent the best interest of the board” this just shows how Jill’s priorities are backwards. Commissioners should act in the best interest of the citizens not in the best interest of the BOICC. Just because a majority of the board may have decided something as Jill stated does not mean another Commissioner needs to remaining silent on an issue.

          Jill stated: “When you go to a meeting that you were not authorized to attend by the full vote of the board you disrespect the citizens”.

          In my little mind Kelly Emerson was voted in by her constituents, not Jill Johnson. Authorized to attend? A meeting in her own district? Really? Is this what it has come to in the BOICC?

          I for one am glad we have a commissioner that stands up to bullies like Jill Johnson who attempts to control and tell other commissioners where and what to speak.

  3. Bill,
    Unfortunately, it is not over just yet. I, without Kelly’s involvement, have prepared a file that will be sent to the State Auditor demanding an investigation into this case and how it ties into the recent resignation of former Planning Director Bob Pederson . It will be an eye opener for everyone in Island County and should be very troubling for all those involved. Remember the SWR /WNT headline: “Pederson paid not to sue Island County” and the fact that nobody even asked the simple question – What would he sue Island County for? We are all about to find out.

    1. I wish you a good strike mission. The fact our own government has been turned into a weapon by progressives in ways that make Watergate almost excusable… sickens me.

      The problem is, I don’t see the Washington State Auditor’s Office having the balls for this fight. They think a big chunk of their role is to get along with government, and I know this from many, many conversations.

      Perhaps the Freedom Foundation would like to take a whack at this.

    2. Glad to hear things are moving forward. We all want to know the dirty little secrets behind Island County’s decision to pay Bob Pederson off.

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