Kent School Board members Meghin Margel, Awale Farah and Tim Clark face a civil lawsuit along with Superintendent Israel Vela over the board’s formation of a Labor Policy Committee. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School Board members Meghin Margel, Awale Farah and Tim Clark face a civil lawsuit along with Superintendent Israel Vela over the board’s formation of a Labor Policy Committee. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Judge denies preliminary injunction in Kent School District civil case

Lawsuit still moves forward in efforts to stop exclusion of Board Director Cook from labor committee

A King County Superior Court judge denied a preliminary injunction motion in a civil lawsuit filed against the Kent School District, three Kent School Board members and the superintendent.

Plaintiffs Greta Nelson, a district resident and parent, and Donald Cook, a school board member, had hoped to put a temporary stop to the the board’s resolution that kept Cook off a newly formed Labor Policy Committee that deals with contracts with teachers, bus drivers, officer workers and others, because his wife teaches in the district.

Judge Nicholas Straley ruled Thursday, June 27 in a Seattle courtroom that Nelson and Cook failed to show the three things needed for a temporary injunction: a substantial likelihood on the success of the merits, a well-grounded fear of invasion of their personal rights and irreparable harm.

Straley said one reason for his denial is no labor contracts are currently being negotiated or coming up later this year. The Kent Education Association (teachers union) ratified a new agreement June 26 (just one day prior to the court hearing) and the Teamsters Local Union 763 (bus drivers) also reached an agreement.

“Those are the only two contracts that have come up recently,” Straley said. “To the extent that there may be negotiations that go forward in the future (2025), the plaintiffs may be able to renew their motion if they believe if Mr. Cook is not able to participate in the Labor Policy Committee it will have an impact at that time. But at this time, the court does not believe that there’s been a showing of irreparable harm required for the court to intervene.”

Despite the setback, Nelson remains confident in the case filed against the district, Superintendent Israel Vela and board members Meghin Margel, Awale Farah and Tim Clark.

“Yesterday’s loss—is not a loss,” Nelson posted June 28 on social media. “The litigation process can be frustrating, especially to those that don’t understand how it works. At the hearing, plaintiffs were not successful in obtaining a preliminary injunction that would have suspended Resolution 1669 temporarily and preliminarily, while the case plays out in court as a matter of course prior to the assigned trial date of March 31, 2025.

“The judge had a very big task—which is to decide whether or not plaintiffs had met their burden of proof regarding whether or not irreparable harm had occurred by Resolution 1669—meaning that the “harm” cannot be remedied by any amount of money or repaired through legal means.”

Cook responded in court to the judge after he denied the motion.

“My concern with that is the irreparable harm is both to my reputation as an elected official and also to the fact that this continuing allows them to use this resolution to direct the superintendent and others to make this happen however they see fit,” Cook said.

Cook added that his duty as a board member will continue to be hindered if he’s not allowed to be involved in labor negotiations.

Judge Straley responded that although he denied the motion, the case continues.

“I’ve made my ruling in denying the motion, but the case has not been dismissed,” Straley said. “It will continue to go forward like any civil case at this time. There are steps that the parties can take with respect to how the case moves forward.”

Nelson took that as good news.

“While plaintiffs were not successful at this hearing in obtaining the temporary result they asked for, they were successful in learning what, specifically, is required to be included in their amended complaints—so that they can amend their complaints prior to the deadline for amending claims, and then arrange for process service on the defendants, which then requires the defendants to respond, in writing, within 20 days, to the complaint(s),” Nelson said.

Nelson said this particular requirement of the litigation process has not occurred yet because of strategic reasons, and also because of the lack of a law firm and support staff backing, as Nelson and Cook are handling the case on their own without attorneys.

Stephen DeJulio, an attorney with the Seattle law firm of Foster Garvey, represented the school district at the hearing, and started off with filing a declaration with the court from Vela that the only two labor contracts under consideration by the district had been wrapped up.

“There’s no harm to the plaintiff currently because there’s no committee meetings, there’s no negotiations,” DeJulio said.

DeJulio also addressed the reasons for forming the Labor Policy Committee after Judge Straley asked about the impact of Cook’s marriage to a district teacher who could benefit from the information.

“Both the impact that may occur in respect to the strategy for the board negotiating with the Kent Education Association but also the impact of perceived favoritism for teachers with respect to dealing with other unions, seven or eight unions,” DeJulio said.

Cook has said since he was elected last year he would recuse himself from voting or talks about the teachers union contract. But Cook and Nelson said he should be allowed to participate in other labor group negotiations, which is the basis of their suit.

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