Yesterday I got a letter from an attorney representing Larry Tokarski.
The letter also went to A.P. Walther, the publisher of Salem Weekly. It was in response to the opinion piece I wrote for Salem Weekly, "Larry Tokarski leaves the public with a $7.5 million development bill."
Here's the letter:
Download Letter from Tokarski attorney
The gist of the letter is an assertion that Tokarski isn't the developer of Creekside. Well, let's look at some evidence that argues otherwise. My point in doing this is to show that a reasonable person, namely me, is justified in calling Larry Tokarski the "Creekside developer."
Here's a screenshot of a 1990 document relating to the original development permit for Creekside. As with the other documents, I've circled Tokarski's name in red. This City of Salem document shows Larry Tokarski as the developer of the 264 acre Creekside property.
Here's a 1991 letter Tokarski sent to City Manager Gary Eide where he's identified as the General Partner of Hawaii Northwest Ventures.
Creekside was developed in numerous phases. The 2005 document below relates to Phase 10. It shows the owner/applicant as Larry Tokarski.
The next document from 2006 shows that Larry Tokarski is the Managing Partner of Hawaii Northwest Ventures. Note that the City of Salem document says that each person included as the Developer are jointly liable for the conditions of the agreement relating to a Creekside development phase.
A 2016 Planning Commission order identified Larry Tokarski as the controlling member who signed off on various plats associated with phases of the Creekside development.
A 2015 Memorandum of Understanding regarding Creekside was signed by Lawrence Tokarski as trustee of a revocable living trust.
In 2016, Lawrence Tokarski was the petitioner in a case regarding the development of Creekside.
In that LUBA opinion is a footnote saying that Lawrence Tokarski is a controlling member of various entities that applied for Creekside Planned Unit Development (PUD) permits, and that he is properly viewed as the applicant, or one of the applicants, for the various applications.
So does it make sense to say that Larry Tokarski is the Creekside developer? I certainly believe so.
WOW. That lawyer letter, on the face of it, seems so profoundly intimidating. Even the prospect of having to face what seems to be an entirely unsupportable legal action is terrifying to most. Since Mr. Hines is a well established journalist, the 1st amendment implications are clear. Perhaps Mr. Tokarski's attorney would argue that Hawaii Northwest Ventures (HNV), being a corporation, should also be considered to be a "person", as the Supreme Court has declared to be appropriate within the context of campaign contribution law. He might then go on to argue that no real person, including Mr. Tokarski, should be considered to be "the" developer. After viewing the Oregon Secretary of State Corporation Division information for HNV (link below) which lists Mountain West Investment Corporation as the registered agent and Mr. Tokarski and Mountain West as general partners (the effective date of a Certificate of Cancellation is listed as 11/30/2013), and seeing that Mr. Tokarski is listed elsewhere as the President and Secretary of Mountain West Investment Corporation (listed as current), it would certainly stretch the imagination to think that any reasonable person would not surmise that Mr. Tokarski could justifiably be described as the developer and that Mr. Hover, being described in the letter as a "manager", would be less likely to be in a position to make controlling decisions within the corporation (this may or may not be the actual case). Nevertheless, (I am not an attorney) a finding of defamation of a public figure requires proof of malice (having knowledge that the statement was false) and there seems to be no evidence that that is the case here. Even if one might imagine a hint of negligence (there is no obligation for a journalist to get a statement by the other side), the namby pamby statement that "...the article is very close to being considered defamation." seems inflammatory. Freedom of expression is one of those rights that require eternal vigilance to preserve. Any semblance of prior restraint by way of unjustifiable intimidation should be strongly discouraged.
Posted by: Kurt | February 28, 2018 at 04:19 PM