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Seattle Bureaucracy Sinks Floating Market,
Delays Launch of FarmBoat Foods

August 2nd, 2013 - FarmBoat Foods had planed to debut its line of healthy food staples in July during the FarmBoat Floating Market at Seattle's Lake Union Park. In it's third year aboard the historic steamship Virginia V, the unique floating market was becoming an iconic Seattle attraction.

City parking enforcement officials filed a lawsuit against the founder of the floating market program for not garnishing the wages of a 2012 market vendor who had racked up $8,000 in parking fines ten years earlier. Despite spending months trying to convince the City that market vendors who sold goods to the public were not employees of the market, the city obtained a judgement lien and forced the market to close.

The City is banking on the idea that Washington State employers who don't garnish wages on demand from employees can be held liable for their debts. However, the non-profit FarmBoat Floating Market, never employed anyone. According to the Washington State Attorney General's office, this is the first time that they have ever heard of a farmers market being held liable for the debts of merchants who sell to the public.

The lawsuit targeted both the FarmBoat Floating Market program (managed by the Urban Public Waterfront Association ) and FarmBoat Foods--which had not even been started yet when the city first made its allegations of employment in January of this year.

FarmBoat organizers are hoping to clear up the matter soon, but so far, the City's ticket collection agency, Alliance One, is insistent that they are owed the money for the past market vendor's decade-old parking ticket debts because his name was found on the FarmBoat.org Floating Market promotional web pages for the 2012 season (along with other merchants).

The scofflaw merchant vendor, who participated in about a dozen Thursday floating markets in the summer and fall of 2012, was long gone by the time the City collection agency demanded garnishment of his wages. The writ of garnishment order was made in January when the market was closed for the winter.

The situation makes little sense to legal professionals according to FarmBoat founder, David Petrich who says "It's a clear abuse of power for the City of Seattle to fabricate employment relationships with no evidence or legal authority. It was simply an excuse to illegally steel money from us since we have no way to garnish anything from a merchant who was selling to the public--especially a year after the fact".

FarmBoat organizers believe it is important for people to know about the situation because these types of egregious government actions can cripple small businesses and put an end to the ability for people to access foods from small independent providers.

If things can be resolved quickly, FarmBoat Foods hopes to have items for the Fall and Christmas markets. However, the disruption could result in a delay until next year.

For more information on the closure of the FarmBoat Floating Market at Lake Union Park, visit FarmBoat.org.


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