A claim filed against the city of Enumclaw — a legal challenge that first sought $6 million in damages and was later expanded to $18 million — was eventually settled for $400,000.
A portion of the money has been disbursed, more will be paid in October of this year and half the total will be in the form of monthly payments beginning July 1, 2019.
The claim stems from an unsettling story of a 30-something man and an early-teen girl. The sordid tale evolved into an admission of guilt and eventual prison sentence for the perpetrator and, finally, a claim of wrongdoing against the city of Enumclaw and, in particular, its police department.
The tale began when a citizen contacted Enumclaw police in early 2015, reporting a co-worker had been bragging about having a sexual relationship with a minor. An investigation later resulted in the May 14, 2015, arrest of city resident Ryan A. Rothermel. He was initially charged with 20 counts of third-degree child rape, a Class C felony. He eventually pleaded guilty to three counts and was handed a prison term. He was 37 at the time of his March 2016 sentencing.
The action against Enumclaw was based on a claim that the city did not act quickly enough to protect the young victim. That’s where the story took its legal turn.
City Administrator Chris Searcy admits the city did not contact Child Protective Services within an established timeframe. But the reason, he said, is that investigators had to track down the victim, who was 14 at the time. It wasn’t as simple as if the victim herself had come forward, Searcy said.
Additionally, there were initial denials that anything inappropriate had occurred between Rothermel and the girl. At the time, Rothermel was living in an Enumclaw home with his girlfriend; the victim and her mother were tenants at the residence.
Once the legal claim was filed, it was turned over to the Washington Cities Insurance Authority, which represents the city in such matters. The firm is used by a consortium of cities, towns and other legal entities throughout the state, Searcy said.
“They make the decisions,” Searcy explained, noting that the WCIA settled the case. “They seek our input be we defer to them.”
Searcy said the city was adamant that a portion of the settlement – which was accepted by the court in October 2017 – be put in a trust, becoming available to the young victim once she turns 18.
“We wanted to make sure the victim gets the money,” he said.
Final details of the settlement show 40 percent, or $160,000, going to the Civil Rights Justice Center, the Seattle-based firm that represented the victim. Another $20,000 is guaranteed to be paid on Oct. 27 and, finally, payments of $2,016 will be made monthly into a trust. That sum will be paid for eight years, beginning in 22019, with money forwarded to the victim.