A lawsuit was filed in Washington State Superior Court on April 25th. The 136 page Complaint is in response to the City Traffic Court’s asserted ability to make event promotors liable for the debts of people they don’t employ. The legal position of the City has stopped the FarmBoat Floating Market program dead in the water because, under the Court’s policy, any farmer’s market merchant can be named as a suspected employee–even after community events such as this close for the season.
More than a year has past since FarmBoat was falsely accused of being an employer of an elusive scofflaw parking offender who sold vegetables at the Lake Union Park Floating Market. Despite numerous attempts to convey that the debtor was never employed by FarmBoat organizers, the City’s debt collectors filed an $8,000 lawsuit in June of last year alleging that “FarmBoat” owed the scofflaw’s debts through a loophole in garnishment laws.
The process is called “parasitic debt recovery” which started with linking the scofflaw to the FarmBoat Floating Farmer’s Market program through “Facebook” comments.
For a period of ten months, the City relentlessly pursued FarmBoat founder David Petrich and his wife for not garnishing wages that never existed. The frivolous collection lawsuit was finally dropped in November last year after forcing a shutdown of the market along with numerous other nonprofit programs. The City continues to attest that “Facebook” postings suspiciously linked the debtor to the FarmBoat Floating Market, but nothing was ever found to prove that the debtor was an employee of anyone but himself.
A major contention of the suit is the City’s implications that Facebook and other social media postings made by farmer’s market merchants constitute an act of employment on behalf of market organizers. FarmBoat had encouraged market participants to spread the word to promote their offerings at the Floating Market. The lawsuit seeks to demonstrate where the Court’s actions are an unlawful restraint of trade against independent merchants and market organizers.
The lawsuit is necessary to preserve First Amendment rights for event producers to freely associate with, and publicize event participants without government sanctions. Many collaborative community events like the Farmboat Floating Market would not be possible if government agencies can make arbitrary claims of employer liability without factual evidence.
The flagship Floating Market at Lake Union Park was forced to close along with termination of Puget Sound farm transport routes and satellite markets until associative relationship liabilities can be resolved.
The lawsuit aims to stop an unlawful abuse of the garnishment processes that could lead to destroying community events state wide, while seeking to be made whole for extensive damages done to the market founders.
Also named in the lawsuit is the City’s contract debt collector, AllianceOne, who is the largest debt collection agency in the world–collecting for over 80 courts in Washington State alone.
UPDATE: FarmBoat founders were forced to drop the lawsuit due to implicit backchannel threats against family members who had nothing to do with the FarmBoat matter. We are enormously disappointed in the lawless behavior of individuals who have made it impossible for a fair trial to occur. The use of thuggery over due process has become an increasing theme in the ranks of Seattle’s rapidly growing bureaucracy that can dangerously erode everyone’s freedom and liberty. We are urging Seattle citizens to scrutinize the activities of City officials and force them to abide by the laws that “we the people” have established. The lawless actions of City officials is a form of corruption and tyranny that will negatively effect every person in the City if left unchecked.