By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
Clallam County Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer on Friday ruled that Steve Markwell, director of the dog sanctuary, was not properly served notice of a Port Angeles hearing in which Seattle-based Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation sought to have LeRoy returned.
“In reading the declaration, it seems clear that there was no documentation handed to Mr. Markwell,” Rohrer told the foundation's attorney, Adam Karp of Bellingham.
Markwell's sanctuary, a 4,000-square-foot pink warehouse at 1021 Russell Road, has been the scene of round-the-clock protests since Dec. 3.
Since then, Forks police have arrested both Markwell and Tamira Thayne, an animal-rescue organzation founder from Virginia who says she is protesting for the return of a chow-mix named Sonny that her organization placed in Markwell's care.
There were no demonstrations at the courthouse for Friday's hearing.
Not good service
In his statement that he delivered notice of the hearing to Markwell, process server Mack Peterson of Carlsborg Investigative Services said he tried to deliver the papers at the Forks Coffee Shop on Dec. 5.
Markwell noticed Peterson coming to confront him, according to the report, and walked out of the restaurant. Peterson followed and yelled after Markwell before Markwell entered the restaurant's back door.
Sanctuary attorney Derek Medina, said Markwell fled Peterson because he perceived him to be a threat, adding that Markwell has received numerous death threats from critics of his sanctuary.
“He was not evading service; he did not know who this person was,” Medina told the court.
“He's afraid for his life. Someone came after him, he didn't know who it was, and so he fled”
Peterson's account of the attempt to serve the suit on Markwell said the door slammed on the corners of the envelope containing the papers.
Peterson said he picked up the envelope and placed it under the windshiled of a Ford F-150 pickup truck he had seen Markwell in earlier, but then put it back at the coffee shop's back door after speaking with Karp.
“The rule doesn't envision people being served at the back door of restaurants or at their trucks,” Judge Rohrer said of state process-serving statutes.
“I can't conclude that this is good service.”
Given a week
Medina was recently hired by Markwell who fired his previous attorney, Paul Richmond of Port Townsend, last month.
Medina agreed to accept service of the LeRoy suit at his office in Port Angeles but asked Rohrer for a one-week continuance in the hearing so he could subpoena a potential witness.
The foundation placed LeRoy with Markwell under a foster arrangement in 2009.
AARF President Heather Enajibi filed suit Nov. 19 to have the dog returned, claiming that Markwell has not provided “adequate and humane” care for LeRoy as spelled out in the agreement.
Medina said Friday that there was a conflict in leadership in the foundation, which was formerly known as the Animals First Foundation, that may call the foster agreement into question.
He asked for the week to research that matter and to subpoena possible witnesses.
Rohrer agreed to put it back on the calendar for next Friday, Dec. 20.
Karp said he was uncertain of the effect the judge's ruling would have on a fraud and breach of contract suit Peterson attempted to serve on Markwell with the show-cause hearing notice.
In that case, Markwell has been sued by Sherie Maddox of Port Angeles, who claims that a $50,000 donation she made in June 2012 to help build a new facility for the sanctuary was misused.
Medina said he is unsure whether he will represent Markwell in that suit.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.