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Seattle Out and Proud settles with City
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Seattle Out and Proud settles with City

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle Out and Proud (SOAP), the non-profit organization that produces Seattle's annual Pride Parade, has reached a settlement with the City in a lawsuit resulting from the group's 2006 Pride festival at Seattle Center.

The agreement calls for SOAP to pay the City $85,000 in yearly installments, beginning this year and ending in 2014. Payments would be due September 1 of each year, and if SOAP pays on schedule the City will waive all interest and penalty charges due on the debt.

The agreement allows the City to collect most of the initial charges due for SOAP's financially disastrous 2006 Pride festival at Seattle Center, but also relieves SOAP of responsibility for more than $40,000 in interest and penalties. If SOAP does not pay on schedule, the City reserves the right to collect the full amount.

"I'm elated! This was a long time coming, but good things are worth waiting for," SOAP Board member Jon Mejia told SGN. The suit was filed on March 23 this year on the instruction of Seattle Center Productions Director John Merner.

According to Mejia, plans are already in the works to raise the money to pay off the settlement. SOAP has created special "Show Up With Pride" buttons, which are available on their website and at the Parade. "100% of the proceeds will go to pay this debt," Mejia says.

"The whole point of the negotiations was to find a doable solution," he explained. "I'm very confident we can pay it off." SOAP no longer produces the Pride event at Seattle Center, which is now run by a private promoter. Since 2006, the Pride Parades produced by SOAP have all shown a profit.

"Pride 2009 will be bigger and better than ever," Mejia promises. "We expect record crowds. It will be an amazing Pride."

Seattle Center Communications Director Deborah Daoust told SGN, "We're really pleased that SOAP and the City Law Department have reached a resolution. & There was goodwill on both sides to reach a solution that works for everybody."

SOAP has contended that they were attempting to negotiate a settlement with Seattle Center even before the City's suit was filed, and they did, in fact, pay down their debt to the Center by almost $10,000.

Asked if the settlement could have come about without resorting to a lawsuit, Daoust said, "There was a delinquency there, and it went through the regular collections process. Seattle Center and the Law Department determined this was the best course."

As previously reported in SGN, City Attorney Tom Carr has denied any role in deciding to sue SOAP, which he maintains was entirely up to Seattle Center. Carr told SGN he was "pleased to get a settlement that works for both sides."

"My experience has been that you sometimes have to bring things to a head in order to get to a resolution," Carr continued. "Most civil lawsuits are resolved prior to litigation, as this one was."

Asked about SOAP's approach to negotiations with the City, Mejia said simply, "We had counsel and we followed counsel's advice."

Mejia also took the opportunity to address SOAP's critics in the community.

"I want to say something to the critics," he told SGN. "I've been on the board since December 2008, and I've gotten to know the board members who have been here since 2006. They are incredibly hardworking and dedicated. It's easy to be critical, but try doing the work. Come and volunteer, then talk."

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