West Seattle, Washington
9:29 PM WEDNESDAY: A dead sea lion found on the shore just west of Seacrest Park today was the fourth and possibly fifth that Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network has responded to, and the deaths are under investigation. We photographed the dead animal at midmorning – by which time it was already tied to driftwood – and talked with Seal Sitters later. In addition to this one, they’ve responded to two at Jack Block Park and one in the 1500 block of Alki Avenue, plus received a report of one that they say might be the same one dealt with today. We reported on a Jack Block discovery last month:
Questions about whether the sea lions had been shot come amid multiple incidents in which people reported hearing/seeing gunfire offshore – including this one back on November 4th, and this one in late September. We’ve heard tonight from “Diver Laura” James that the sea lion near Seacrest will likely be moved to a less-public location tomorrow for necropsy, to check on whether it might have a bullet wound. Seal Sitters’ Lynn Shimamoto, meantime, tells us that NOAA is expecting to have a statement about the investigations tomorrow.
ADDED THURSDAY MORNING: Michael Milstein of NOAA confirms that the agency’s Office of Law Enforcement is investigating the deaths; the agency will have more to say later. We asked about laws/policies that would cover this – here’s the reply.
11:35 AM UPDATE: The carcass from west of Seacrest is being towed right now to the necropsy site at Don Armeni.
11:45 AM: On the other side of the bay, Kersti Muul tells WSB, a sea lion carcass has been found near the Seattle Aquarium. She says it might be the same one she spotted on a West Seattle beach recently that wasn’t recovered before the tide took it away.
2:26 PM: A second sea lion, recovered from the 1500 block of Alki SW, has been taken to Jack Block for a necropsy too. Separate followup coming up a bit later this afternoon.
Tonight at HomeStreet Bank (WSB sponsor), local author Betsy Bell read from, and signed copies, of her new book “Open Borders.” She describes it as “a personal story of love, loss and anti-war activism … a fascinating trip back to the 80s when Seattle realized we were a target in the case of a nuclear war. I was part of the big wake-up call to prevent such a thing. My husband and daughter and I joined a group of people who traveled into the USSR to deliver a letter of peace at the height of the Cold War.” You can find out more about the author at her website.
As noted, it’s less than two months now until the January 11th date announced for permanent closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and start of a three-weeks-and-then-some-for-us transition. Three things of note:
2. Next Monday night, you’re also welcome at the 6:30 pm Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting at the Senior Center/Sisson Building (4217 SW Oregon), which will include a briefing.
3. We’ll be covering another state/city/county media briefing tomorrow – if you have a transition question that’s so far gone unanswered, let us know (in a comment below, or message us) – we’ll do what we can to get the answer.
More than a few transportation project delays in our area lately, and here’s another. Almost two weeks ago, SDOT told us that work would start as soon as next week on crossing improvements at three 35th SW intersections, including the new signal at 35th/Dawson, as shown above. Then today, project spokesperson Miguela Marzolf contacted us to say, “Regarding the construction schedule, we have postponed the start date and we are working with the contractor to determine further details, including the phasing of the work.” So – don’t expect to see construction crews show up soon after all. But for details of what’s eventually going to happen – see our previous report. If you have questions (beyond “when?”), SDOT now has a project mailbox at email@example.com.
4:41 PM: A power outage is forcing the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor) to close its Triangle location for the rest of the day, says executive director Shalimar Gonzales: “Due to an intermittent power outage, we are closing our West Seattle location for the rest of the evening. Our Fauntleroy facility will remain open normal hours today.”
8:57 PM: Update – “Our current power outage is impacting 5 properties including our West Seattle location due to a faulty cable. Seattle City Light will be working overnight to replace the cable and restore power to the area. We anticipate re-opening the West Seattle facility at 8 am on Thursday, November 15th.”
Eight months ago, the state Attorney General’s Office announced theft charges against the owner of six Tacos Guaymas restaurants, including West Seattle, accusing him of using “sales suppression software” to avoid paying millions in sales tax. We’ve been tracking the case as it proceeded slowly through the system. Then last week, in King County Superior Court, the criminal charges against Salvador Sahagun were dismissed, as part of an agreement in which his Green Lake restaurant, as a “corporate defendant,” entered an “Alford plea” (pleading guilty but asserting innocence) to second-degree theft. The subsequent announcement sent by Sahagun’s lawyers notes they are hoping next that the civil actions will be dropped too. They wrote:
The cases filed March 10th in King County Superior Court, along with a parallel action in Snohomish County, accused Salvador Sahagun of pocketing more than $5.6 million in state sales taxes through the use of sales suppression software in what the state described as a wide-ranging scheme to defraud the state.
Attorneys Robert Chicoine and Richard Ainsworth announced that the King and Snohomish charges were dismissed after demonstrating to state prosecutors that the Department of Revenue (DOR) had made erroneous assumptions, used unreliable evidence, and drew unsupportable conclusions about Sahagun’s sales reports and payments of sales tax due, as well as business and occupation taxes.
The Attorney General prosecutors and the defense agreed that one of Sahagun’s corporations did, in fact, owe $800 on a reporting error unrelated to the use of sales suppression software, not $5.6 million as charged, court documents show.
“My client, a good man who is well known for being a leader in the community, decided that it was in his company’s best interest to agree to an additional tax of $800 rather than become entangled in expensive and time-consuming litigation. The important thing is that the prosecutors saw the light and agreed to dismiss all charges against Sahagun,” Chicoine said.
The Attorney General’s Office filed charges against Sahagun personally, relying on the DOR’s claims that six Tacos Guaymas restaurants had used prohibited sales suppression software to hide receipts when, in fact, none of the restaurants had used suppression software.
Ferguson’s office filed the case, prompting significant media coverage not only due to the size of the alleged fraud, but also for the sophistication of the technology allegedly employed by Sahagun.
According to the Attorney General Robert Ferguson’s press release, Sahagun was accused of “pocketing more than $5.6 million in sales taxes.” DOR representatives said the case marked only the second time state prosecutors had brought tax theft charges on behalf of the Washington DOR for alleged use of sales suppression software.
At the time the charges were filed, the state claimed that it was the largest sales suppression software case in Washington state history, and potentially the largest in the country. Although claims of tax fraud by sales suppression technology were ultimately shown to be untrue, the extensive media coverage cost Tacos Guaymas sales and unfairly damaged Sahagun’s reputation, Chicoine noted.
“When I came into work, one of my employees showed me the story in the paper. I was shocked the state filed criminal charges against me based on unrealistic assumptions and unsupportable estimates,” said Sahagun. “The Department of Revenue assumed that I was using advanced technology designed to cheat the government in ways that I never could, and never would. Fortunately, Chicoine and his team understood the technology and relied on the facts and computer analysis to convince the prosecutors that the DOR could not support its charges and they should be dismissed.”
According to Chicoine, a Seattle tax lawyer who represents a number of restaurateurs accused of electronic sales suppression tax fraud, the defense team was able to show the trial prosecutors that many of the DOR audit conclusions were flawed and that the DOR agents did not fully understand the technology involved.
“We got down in the technological weeds with this case, and helped the state see that Sahagun’s stores were following the rules in terms of reporting sales,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the charges were brought in the first place, but we are thankful the prosecutors reviewed all of our evidence, and with the Attorney General’s approval, did the right thing in dismissing the charges.”
Chicoine anticipates that the Attorney General’s Office will revamp criminal tax referral procedures in the future as a result of the Sahagun case. This is a positive outcome not only for Mr. Sahagun, but also for many other Washington business owners who may be suspected of tax fraud by the DOR. He hopes that the DOR will follow suit and dismiss the civil tax loss claims against Sahagun’s businesses based on unsubstantiated and disproven electronic sales suppression assumptions.
“I am so relieved to put this criminal charge behind me and focus all my attentions on running my business, and taking care of those around me,” said Sahagun.
Court documents in the criminal-case agreement say the Green Lake “corporate defendant” was sentenced to pay a $750 fine. In that agreement, Sahagun wrote that while he didn’t believe the “corporate defendant” was guilty of theft, “I discovered evidence that a former management employee embezzled collected receipts, including sales taxes, from the corporation and therefore from the DOR, which likely resulted in an underreporting of the corporation’s receipts in the amount stipulated in the plea agreement. The embezzlement was unknown to me when returns were filed and sales taxes were remitted.”
A week and a half after a reader tip pointed us to a new business in North Admiral, the proprietor of Prep Table has announced it’s officially open. Jillian Shane is offering cooking classes, describing them as “A new way to approach food and cooking. Learn the techniques chefs know that will teach you how to cook more delicious food!” Her background: “I have 8 years’ experience and in that time I have worked for three James Beard-winning Chefs. My focus at Prep Table is to share cooking techniques…not just make recipes. And almost as importantly, to grow a community with people. Food = Community.” The teaching kitchen is at 4304 SW Walker and the classes are listed online.
Thanks to Brian Presser of TouchTech Systems for the tip – the West Seattle Junction Hometown Holidays wreaths are going up right now! As always, you can expect a sleighful of holiday activities in The Junction – listed here and in the WSB West Seattle Holiday Guide. Biggest night of the season will be December 1st, with the Night Market 3-7 pm in the street on SW Alaska by Junction Plaza Park and the Tree Lighting at 6 pm – this year, with special performances throughout the afternoon/evening rather than just at the lighting ceremony.
P.S. Got a holiday event, for now through New Year’s, anywhere in West Seattle/White Center/South Park? Please send us the info ASAP so we can add it to our guide – firstname.lastname@example.org – thank you!
(Surf Scoter, photographed by Mark Wangerin)
Seven from the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar for the rest of your Wednesday:
FOOD & DRINK FUNDRAISER: Restaurants and coffee shops around Seattle are donating 10 percent of their proceeds to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project today in the Chefs+Together Seattle benefit. Check the list for updated local participation.
LUNCH AND LEARN: This month’s Equity in Education Coalition event is at noon at the Bethaday Community Learning Space in White Center – exploring “The Intersection of Racism and Mental Health.” Details in our calendar listing. (605 SW 108th)
DENNY PTSA: 6:30 pm meeting in the Denny International Middle School library. (2601 SW Kenyon)
34TH DISTRICT DEMOCRATS: 7 pm, our area’s largest political organization meets for the first time since the election. Agenda info is in the newest newsletter (PDF). Meeting’s at The Hall at Fauntleroy. (9131 California SW)
POEMS AND STORIES: Monthly PoetryBridge event at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor), 7 pm, with featured readers Benjamin Schmitt and Jason Kirk – details here. (5612 California SW)
‘FOOLS’ AT WSHS: Three more chances to see the West Seattle High School Drama Club (which provided the photo above) production of Neil Simon‘s “Fools,” starting at 7:30 pm tonight. Ticket info is in our calendar listing. (3000 California SW)
8:40 AM: Again this morning, you have a chance to watch for orcas off West Seattle shores. Kersti Muul tells us they’re headed northbound and about to emerge from Colvos Passage on the west side of Vashon Island, so watching from west-facing West Seattle might yield a sighting. Rain will hamper visibility to some degree – but on the other side, those dorsal fins are extra-visible against silver water. Let us know if you see them!
10:44 AM: Just talked with Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail, at Constellation Park looking for the whales. Not in view yet, she says, but visibility is improving.
7:03 AM: Two incidents as we begin:
–SOOT reports a crash at Delridge/Andover
–Kersti reports a crash on southbound California just south of Fauntleroy, with the sidewalk newspaper boxes hit and strewn across the sidewalk
No SFD dispatch for either one thus far, so apparently no injuries of note.
7:27 AM – ADVANCE ALERTS: Reminder of the SB Highway 99 closure this weekend – late Friday night through early Monday. And tomorrow (Thursday), the Seahawks play Green Bay at 5:30 pm at CLink.
8:30 AM: The NB 1st Avenue South Bridge has a new crash blocking two lanes.
8:47 AM: One of those involved, in comments, reports and requests:
5 car accident on the (NB) 1st Ave Bridge. My car was hit. I’ve made sure we moved to the left lane. If it’s possible for everyone to not yell, honk, and tell me I’m a horrible person for blocking their commute, that would be awesome. I didn’t want my car hit this morning and to be inconvenienced either.
8:49 AM: And if you are bridge-bound on Admiral Way, just heard police dispatched to an incident there.
9 AM: 1st Avenue South Bridge scene is clear.
9:38 AM: Two reports from the eastbound West Seattle Bridge – one from a reader who reports a crash near the curve before Nucor, another via scanner reporting a crash by the 99 exit.