No Floating Market at Lake Union Park the rest of this season. Bureaucrats admit that it is wrong to force FarmBoat to pay the debts of others, but no one yet is willing to stop the arbitrary abuse of power that is keeping you from getting your fresh veggies by sea.
So many of you have suggested that we “Get Jesse” at King 5 TV to see if he will air our story. So, here is the request we sent…
We really need your help! I have had dozens of people tell me I should “Get Jessie at King 5 TV” about our horrendous parking ticket issue with the City of Seattle.
For the last three years, we operated a popular floating farmer’s market each Thursday during the summer at South Lake Union Park aboard the historic steamship “Virginia V”. The FarmBoat Floating Market hosted a variety of independent merchants selling local foods and crafts to the public. We have been steadily building the non-profit program which was started as a way to share maritime heritage while providing a memorable culinary experience. The FarmBoat Floating Market was featured on King 5 Evening Magazine shortly before it was forced to close in July this summer at the height of the farmer’s market season.
The abrupt closure disappointed many local residents as well as visitors from afar. One lady I had spoken with, who brought a group of 20 touring seniors from Texas, said that they planned the floating market to be one of the highlights of their trip. She could not believe that the City of Seattle would trash such a unique tourist attraction. We were helping to meet Healthy Local Food, Cultural Heritage and Small Business initiatives fostered by the City of Seattle without costing the city a dime. FarmBoat’s goal is to re-connect Puget Sound ports to allow farmers to trade across the waters of Puget Sound and beyond. We were the only multi-vendor floating market in the US.
Why were we forced to close? We were hit with a wrongly assigned Writ of Garnishment ordering us to garnish wages from one of our past farm merchant vendors. He had accumulated over $8,000 in parking fines with the City of Seattle between 2003 and 2009–long before we ever met him. The trouble is, the merchant wasn’t an employee. He was just a vendor selling to the public during the 2012 summer market season. He was long gone by the time the wage garnishment order was issued last January when we were closed for the season. We could not have garnished anything from him anyway. Like many other Seattle community farmer’s markets, merchants willingly participate because they make money selling to the public. The City of Seattle knows that we don’t pay merchants to be there because the city sponsors many other neighborhood markets that operate the same way.
To make matters worse, the collection agency sent the garnishment order to an out-of-town storage yard instead of our actual address. We never got the paperwork until after they sued and won a default judgement lien against us for $8,000. We were railroaded into owing the massive parking fines through unscrupulous legal actions by a City of Seattle contract debt collection agency called AllianceOne. They also named my wife and I personally in the lawsuit even though the FarmBoat Floating Market program is run under a non-profit organization.
We learned from attorneys that it is entirely legal for a collection agency to transfer debt from one person to another by simply accusing someone of being an employer of a deadbeat debtor. If the accused “employer” doesn’t fill out the proper paper work within 20 days to formally deny the claim, they end up owing the debt according to Washington State garnishment laws–even if they never employed anyone! Unscrupulous debt collector’s entrap people who don’t know about employment legal processes in hopes that they don’t file the right forms in time to avoid automatic garnishee liability. The process is known as parasitic debt recovery–and the Seattle Municipal Court is all over it because it brings in money that otherwise often go’s uncollected.
We tried relentlessly to explain to the City and its debt collectors that we could not garnish wages from a person that we did not pay money to. The state legal garnishment forms don’t even have an option for an accused employer to say “they never employed the debtor”–the laws were written back before the internet when actual proof was required to get a wage garnishment order levied at an employer. The Municipal Court and AllianceOne didn’t care what we told them. They want the money from us because they can’t find the original debtor. Their strategy is to drag us through a lengthy and debilitating legal process in hopes that we will just pay them off.
The City and AllianceOne said that they were convinced that the debtor was a full-time employee of FarmBoat because they had seen his contact information on FarmBoat’s Facebook page. FarmBoat helps small businesses that participate in the Floating Market program by letting them use it’s social media channels. Nearly everyone uses social media these days. Using social media connections as proof of liability for someone else’s parking ticket debts should be a scary big-brother proposition for a lot of people.
How is it Fair that My Wife and I are Forced to Pay Someone Else’s Debt?
No one we have talked to can really believe this is happening. We have spent ten months trying to resolve this issue over the simple fact that we never employed the scofflaw parking offender the city wants to punish. AllianceOne is a mega international corporation without conscience–they filed a frivolous lawsuit because intimidation based debt collection is big profit. How far are will City officials go in supporting unethical and most likely, very illegal and libelous actions of its debt collection contractor?
For no justifiable reason, the City of Seattle and AllianceOne have wrecked havoc in our lives and crippled our ability to make a living. What kind of equality is it when the Seattle Municipal Court prioritizes money over justice? With a huge judgment lien against us, we are blocked from doing banking transactions and conducting the necessary fund raising for the FarmBoat Floating Market.
I have spoken with many city officials including Mayor McGinn who admit that it is wrong for us to be forced to pay someone else’s parking fines. But so far, nobody at the city has done anything about it. AllianceOne is continuing new legal actions against us that will enable their ability to garnish our own personal wages. We don’t have the massive budget needed to fight complex employment litigation–and they know it. Our only recourse is to try and pressure politicians to do the right thing and STOP the abuse of power against us.
We had hopped to continue building our floating market as a unique and memorable Seattle attraction, but the opportunity is fading away with each month of this unconstitutional siege on our personal and organizational finances.
We need your help to expose this scam for what it is — a form of destructive harassment, intimidation and abuse of power aimed at filling the city’s financial coffers without regard for justice.
Can you help us? I would be happy to discuss this with you and answer any questions. More information is also available at FarmBoat.org (click on the “Under Siege” link at the top of the home page). It is important for people to know about our situation because it can happen to anyone. The City of Seattle needs to step up and fix its aggressive ticket collection policies so that it does not destroy the lives of innocent people and kill community programs like FarmBoat.
I have cc’d the Seattle City Council, Mayor’s Office, Attorney General and a few others.
Captain Dave Petrich
FarmBoat Program Manager
Ok, so it’s a bit long. But we think it’s important to get the story out there so that people know about the bureaucratic nightmares being caused by our own little local government. It’s no wonder the country is in such a big mess.
Help us out if you can. Forward our message to your friends and associates!