At the entrance to Chinatown, there's a five-by-eight-foot sign on the empty lot on the corner of NW 4th and Burnside that reads: "STOP RANDY LEONARD'S HIT SQUAD."
What's it all about? Depends upon whom you ask. The owners of the vacant lot—which is actually two lots, under the law—are suing City Commissioner Randy Leonard for alleged abuse of their civil rights, trespass, invasion of privacy, intentional interference with business relations, and negligence. Daniel and Donna Cossette and Michael and Linda Wright say that Leonard's "Housing Interdiction Team," or HIT Squad, shut down and demolished Cindy's Adult Bookstore, which was once on the site, without due process. They say Cindy's ended up on Leonard's HIT list of "problem properties" arbitrarily, and that the HIT Squad has no defined methodology for picking out properties.
The Wrights and the Cossettes are suing Leonard and the city for $950,000, alleging in their legal complaint that Leonard "places properties and businesses on the HIT list arbitrarily, without a rational basis, and in furtherance of Leonard's personal motives and of the financial interests of Leonard and his friends, family, and/or business associates."
Their attorney, Randy Acker, says he filed a public records request for emails about Cindy's between city staffers before filing the suit.
"They told me it would cost $1 million to get the records," says Acker. "And that just started to feel like obstructionism."
The issues in this case seem similar to those involved in Leonard's formerly secret list of downtown offenders targeted for drug treatment. Indeed, the specter of Leonard's friend, Old Town cop Jeff Myers, looms large in both stories ["The Secrets Behind the Secret List," Feature, November 5]. Nobody is arguing with a good-faith effort to clean up downtown crime or safety problems—the question is whether there should be a transparent and accountable process.
"You can't just not comply with the fire code," Leonard responds. "In these cases it wasn't just a case of not complying. They flaunted it. They became skilled in the act of deflecting responsibility. You just can't do that."
Leonard told the Mercury he's not afraid of the lawsuit, adding that the owners of the various businesses on the HIT list were offered the right to appeal.
"They're not being truthful," he adds.