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Seattle’s FarmBoat shuts down over parking tickets

A farmer's market operation run off a boat in Seattle's Lake Union neighborhood has been shut down over parking tickets. ( Skorheim)

A farmer’s market operation atop a boat in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood has been shut down over parking tickets.

Of course, the boat didn’t incur these tickets. But the boat and Captain Dave Petrich are being pressed to pay the city for a former vendor’s parking tickets.

The vendor sold vegetables out of the farmer’s market Dave set up on the old Virgina V in South Lake Union. The city approached Dave about the issue last January, but Dave says he hasn’t seen the past vendor for over a year.

“We haven’t talked to him since the end of the market season last year,” Dave Petrich tells KIRO Radio’s Andrew Walsh. “They really should be putting their efforts on finding him versus going after people who really aren’t connected to him at all.”

The city wanted Dave to garnish the vendor’s wages in the amount of $7,800, to pay for the tickets. Dave explains the FarmBoat only rents space to vendors. The nonprofit doesn’t actually pay its vendors’ wages.

“That’s what is kind of odd about this, it’s the first time the attorney general has heard of a farmer’s market being worked over on a garnishment situation,” says Dave. “It’s kind of like forcing a landlord to garnish money from a past tenant.”

Dave tried to explain to the city that there weren’t any wages to garnish, but instead of dropping it, Dave says the city went after him for the money.

“It got to the point where they got a default judgment liened against us for the person’s wages. In this state, you can do that. If an employer doesn’t garnish wages on demand of the court, they can force that employer to pay the wages.”

As a result of the $7,800 lien, Dave says the FarmBoat remained closed. He says it didn’t feel right for them to make money if it was going straight to this payment.

“It would be kind of fraudulent of us to take money in and have it go out for something other than what we’re telling people we’re using it for. So we couldn’t take money in,” says Dave.

“We were actually in the middle of a Kickstarter fundraising campaign in June and we had to pull that because it wouldn’t have been right to allow the money to come in the door and out the back door.”

It’s been nine months now that Dave has been going back and forth with the city, and while they are pulling back on their demands for the cash, he says things aren’t all worked out yet.

“They had, about a week ago, agreed to drop the charges but they basically wanted us to sign away some rights, not to sue them, not to talk about it, but at this point it’s too late,” Dave says. “It’s already in the media, so I can’t sign anything that says nobody will be talking about it. Nor can I sign anything that says that we were ever an employer before or a number of other things.”

Dave says he’s heard they’re trying to modify the claim, but he’d rather they just drop it.

“There’s really nothing that we should have to agree to because it’s just simply a case where the city drove a bus into our living room and we want them to remove it, so to speak.”

Andrew says unlike a lot of his radio colleagues, he’s typically not distrustful of government, but this story infuriates him because it epitomizes complaints people make about government.

“Basically, the city said to you, hey we need you to garnish this guy’s wages, and you said this guy doesn’t work for me, so I can’t. That should have been the end of the story, but instead you basically have to get documents signed that say you will not sue over this and all this stuff. You’re still being kind of victimized here,” says Andrew.

“Exactly,” says Dave. “They really should just simply drop the matter because it’s not anything that we did, and it is a lot of bureaucracy that I think is causing the problem.”

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