By Edward Snook
The Woman Who Lives on the Wrong Side of the Tracks
Dr. Kathy Marshack
VANCOUVER, WA – What would you do if you opened your front door to the police and learned that you were under arrest for crimes you didn’t commit? What if your neighbors accused you of hit-and-run, stalking, trespass and assault . . . but none of it was true? What if the city you live in launched an all-out campaign to take away your property rights, your small business, and your freedom?
Last edition you heard the story of Kathy Marshack, the Vancouver, Washington woman who lives on the “wrong side of the tracks.” Over the last seven years, Dr. Marshack has endured all kinds of harassment and violation of her civil rights, from assault and battery, to false arrest, to reported stalking and malicious defamation, all because her property rights caused a problem for her neighbors. The Mayor, City Manager, City Attorney, newspaper owner and even a Washington State Representative have been determined to take out Dr. Marshack because she stands in the way of waterfront property development – a major part of which is a Train Horn Noise Quiet Zone.
The following story is just a small part of the terrorizing that local neighbors launched against Dr. Marshack. Every step of the way the harassment was encouraged by Vancouver City officials and the Vancouver Police. But Dr. Marshack’s neighbors didn’t expect one woman to put up such a fight. Dr. Marshack says, “When it comes to my family and my freedom, I won’t quit.”
Roger Parsons is one of those neighbors who is apparently greatly frustrated that he underestimated the power of this determined woman. Karma might explain it . . .or, perhaps the Golden Rule.
When Roger Parsons learned in March 2010, that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) denied the Quiet Zone permit, he was apparently furious. How could one neighbor, with no political connections at all, have stopped his project? He saw his six years of effort crumbling before his eyes. He and the Train Horn Noise Quiet Zone committee had partnered with the City of Vancouver to create an elaborate scheme of taxing residents along the tracks in order to pay for this boondoggle to benefit wealthy landowners with Columbia Riverfront homes. The City spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal time, engineering evaluations, and lobbyists to change Washington Law to create a Local Improvement District (funded by taxpayers within the District).
Roger was so angry that he sent out a two page single-spaced email venting his frustrations to everyone in the neighborhood and all City Officials (including Jim Rulli, a Superior Court Judge who lives in the neighborhood and is pro-Quiet Zone, as well as the Mayor and City Council). He complained that Dr. Marshack presented a “major snag” in the development of the Quiet Zone. He demanded that Brent Boger, the Vancouver Assistant City Attorney responsible (in part) for the project, act “aggressively and expeditiously,” and to “seek legal remedy.” Roger went on to demand that Mr. Boger “take any and all measures” and to “reevaluate the wisdom of the current City issued permit” for Dr. Marshack’s home-based psychology practice.
In fact within days, Mr. Boger did write to the FRA threatening to sue the Federal Government if they wouldn’t grant the Quiet Zone permit. As ludicrous as this sounds, Mr. Boger continued this approach for another year. He sent three letters in total trying to get the safety issue ignored. The FRA was patient. They directed Mr. Boger to re-evaluate the Quiet Zone plan to include safety features at the only train crossing that Dr. Marshack can use. But Boger, Parsons and others refused to cooperate. So after repeated attempts from the FRA to get the City of Vancouver to be reasonable, the FRA announced on May 4, 2011 that they would grant the Quiet Zone permit . . . provided the City of Vancouver pay for and maintain standard safety equipment at the private train crossing used by Dr. Marshack. This is all that Dr. Marshack was asking for in the first place, to have all train crossings in the proposed Quiet Zone equipped with safety equipment – Karma.
The most dangerous train crossing in the City
The story of alleged malicious harassment dedicated to removing Dr. Marshack doesn’t start with Roger Parsons. Since 2004 Dr. Marshack’s neighbors, the City of Vancouver and the owner of the train tracks, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., have discussed the feasibility of a Quiet Zone. They published their first feasibility study on February 5, 2005, as posted to the Vancouver City website (http://www.cityofvancouver.us). It was during the pendency of this feasibility study that the reported harassment began and continues to this day.
By the date of this feasibility study, Dr. Marshack became alarmed that no one was worried in the least about the private train crossing which is her only access to and from her home. In February 2005, she asked the Fire Department to evaluate safety at the crossing and down the narrow little road that leads to her home and the homes of three other residents. Unbeknownst to her, Dr. Marshack’s request was routed to Vancouver Code Enforcement Officer Richard Landis and Assistant City Attorney Charles Isely. The report was never sent to Dr. Marshack (so much for openness in government).
On February 17, 2005, just a few days after the Quiet Zone feasibility study was completed, Captain Mike Berg, of the Vancouver Fire department, deemed the little 1908 train crossing by Dr. Marshack’s house and the narrow old road (built in 1852) as very dangerous. Not only was he concerned about the safety of fire personnel and damaging fire trucks, but he states in his report:
“. . . I might suggest we advise the property owners on this road we cannot meet time response guidelines into this area for fire or medical responses and also let their fire insurance companies know that we as a Department cannot operate with our normal fire ground operations and expect larger fire damage due to extreme fire access problems. . .”
No wonder Landis, Isely and others at City Hall didn’t want Dr. Marshack to have this report back in early 2005. Parsons and his cronies were concocting a plan to get rid of opposition to the Quiet Zone and fire safety just was not on their agenda. Thank goodness Captain Berg was honest. Unfortunately, it would be nearly five years before Dr. Marshack got to see this report and she had to sue the neighbors and the City of Vancouver to get it.
Public Works Director, Brian Carlson, takes over
With the colossal failure of Assistant City Attorney Brent Boger to dispense with Dr. Marshack and her concerns about safety, the Quiet Zone project was passed on to Vancouver Public Works Director, Brian Carlson. Carlson already had a long history of sabotaging Dr. Marshack, so he was the perfect candidate. He was cozy with Dr. Marshack’s neighbors Toni Montgomery and Mary Neptune and board officers for the home owners association at Steamboat Landing (SBL). SBL is a private gated community on the Columbia River with a private beach and marina – the entity who stands to benefit the most from a Train Horn Noise Quiet Zone.
Carlson regularly attended SBL home owners and board meetings to discuss the Quiet Zone, and how to stop Marshack. In a chipper little email between SBL President Toni Montgomery and Mr. Carlson on March 31, 2008, the two joked about Dr. Marshack’s plight of being unable to sell her house because of neighborhood harassment.
Toni Montgomery: “Thanks for the reply. I am checking with all others to see if Wed. @ 4 would work for them. I am tied up with the Marshack v. City of Vancouver new lawsuit on Tuesday. Would you please buy her house!
Brian Carlson: “OK thanks Toni. I’ll save Wed for a meeting. I’ll also bring $1 as a down payment on that house!”
The lawsuit referenced by Montgomery turned out to be Dr. Marshack’s claim against SBL for malicious defamation, harassment, and conspiracy with the City of Vancouver to obstruct Dr. Marshack’s property rights and civil rights. When Montgomery’s neighbors at SBL found out how their homeowner’s dues were being used, rebellion broke out. President Montgomery and Vice President Mary Neptune were removed from office in disgrace. Complaints by other SBL residents were filed against them with the State of Washington for misappropriation of homeowner’s dues. Ultimately, SBL paid out huge legal fees and a tidy settlement to Dr. Marshack for the damage caused by the alleged malfeasance of their board members – Karma.
Vigilantes or Gang Members?
Dr. Marshack has never met her neighbor Toni Montgomery. Like so many of the players in the Quiet Zone boondoggle, civic leaders have targeted Dr. Marshack without ever having met her or communicated with her about her concerns. This isn’t surprising since these nasty neighbors have the full support of the Mayor, the City Manager, the City Attorney’s office, Code Enforcement, the Vancouver Police Department and the local newspaper, The Columbian. Full support is an understatement. These neighbors were given carte blanche to engage in vigilante activities that turned into alleged “criminal gang attacks.” Take a look at this list of claims while realizing this isn’t everything:
1. SBL resident Merrilee Amy chased Dr. Marshack’s daughter with a shovel, frightening the teenager as she ran home to her mother. The police made no arrest even though Amy admitted it.
2. SBL residents Don Morris and Melanie Mooney frightened Dr. Marshack’s daughter and a friend by encircling them on a riding lawnmower, then grabbing them by their clothing, as they walked the old road to the river. The girls were terrified. They broke free of their attackers and ran home to Dr. Marshack. Vancouver Police Officer Calhoun did nothing in spite of court orders against harassment.
3. SBL resident Melanie Mooney threatened Dr. Marshack verbally and when that didn’t work, she grabbed Dr. Marshack, shook her, and bit her. The police followed up by arresting Dr. Marshack and told her the bite wound was a scratch. Later when Mooney finally confessed to City Prosecutor Kevin McClure that she lied and that she did indeed bite Marshack, McClure continued to prosecute Dr. Marshack, threatening to prove that she bit herself.
4. SBL resident Don Morris attacked Dr. Marshack by hitting her in the head from behind and knocking her to her knees. The police told Dr. Marshack she must have caused the injuries to herself. However, Judge Nichols found Morris guilty of assault in a civil claim that Dr. Marshack had to file herself.
5. SBL President Toni Montgomery authorized the installation of a wanted poster of Dr. Marshack at the front gate of the private community. It is noted in the SBL Board minutes that Vancouver Police and Code Enforcement were fully supportive of this measure.
6. SBL resident Don Morris “stalked” Dr. Marshack and took a series of 50 secret videos from his hiding place in the bushes (on Dr. Marshack’s property), or when driving past her house. He turned the videos over to Assistant City Attorney Charles Isely and Code Enforcement Officer Richard Landis, along with a petition signed by neighbors complaining that Dr. Marshack was a nuisance. In spite of two public records requests, Isely and Landis denied the existence of the videos.
7. SBL homeowners Amy, Neptune, Montgomery, Morris and Mooney installed a fence out into the Columbia River. Code Enforcement Officer Richard Landis and Police Commander Dave King authorized the fence as a “police line” to prevent Dr. Marshack from using her legally deeded easement to the river, even after court orders to the contrary.
8. The Columbian Newspaper, owned by Scott Campbell, who is one of Marshack’s neighbors repeatedly ran disparaging stories about Dr. Marshack. Stephanie Rice, a Columbian Journalist penned article after article castigating Dr. Marshack for standing up for her rights, including statements that her house was not worth the asking price. So much for unbiased reporting.
What’s the Karma total result?
Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent already by the City of Vancouver and Dr. Marshack’s neighbors in a selfish and futile attempt to take away one woman’s civil rights and property rights. They have paid out the nose for legal fees and settlement costs. The City faces another $300,000 -500,000 to upgrade the old train crossing in order to fulfill their narcissistic desire for a Quiet Zone for their wealthy and unscrupulous patrons. The surrounding neighbors have their houses for sale, and are unable to sell. Riverfront property is unable to be developed because access issues remain unsolved.
City officials like Brent Boger, Brian Carlson, and Police Commander Dave King have been publicly humiliated. Community leaders like Roger Parsons and Toni Montgomery have lost their credibility. Neighbors like Morris and Mooney faced stiff legal bills for their malevolent conduct. Scott Campbell faced a reorganization bankruptcy for his newspaper the Columbian, and he reportedly lost his house as well. There is more to tell you about Mr. Campbell in future stories.
The City of Vancouver has lost their bid to destroy Dr. Marshack’s business, property rights, and civil rights. . . and yet they refuse to pay damages and her lawsuit is still pending. It is certainly true that municipal governments, in fact all factions of government today, believe they are above the law. During the course of terrorizing Dr. Marshack, City Attorney Ted Gathe and Assistant City Attorney Alison Chinn have published professional papers on city government immunity and police powers.
After all the losses their army of vigilantes has sustained, because one woman chose to fight back, you might just think they would quit, pay up and move on. However, it appears the City of Vancouver would rather burn down City Hall than do the right thing – Karma.
Editor’s Note: The US~Observer is patiently waiting for Marshack’s attorney Dan Lorenz to file an amended complaint regarding her lawsuit against the City of Vancouver, WA. We had intended to report on the finished complaint well before now – however, for the time-being we will give Lorenz every benefit of doubt possible.