Longtime Maryfest members get to return, judge rules

MARYSVILLE — A preliminary injunction was granted Tuesday in a lawsuit involving Maryfest, the volunteer organization that runs the Marysville Strawberry Festival.

As a result, some longtime Maryfest volunteers who had been banned from returning by a “secret agreement” by previous officers will be allowed to return: Carol Kapua, Alice and Arvin Van Beek and Cheryl Deckard.

The lawsuit has been weighing heavily on the mind of Maryfest president Jodi Hiatt. “That does take pressure off my shoulders,” she said Wednesday.

With Kapua back, she will lead the efforts with the parade and sponsorships. Arvin Van Beek will provide VIP transportation and “Alice will help wherever needed,” Hiatt said. Deckard will return to write a community column about the festival.

The lawsuit was filed April 13 by the state Attorney General’s Office. Snohomish County Judge Eric Lucas allowed the preliminary injunction. Lucas ruled that the state and Maryfest would likely prevail at trial. The court will now consider whether to throw out the agreement entirely. The AG’s lawsuit states:

In January of 2017, Maryfest’s executive committee, in an emergency secret session, signed a confidential “Secret Settlement” with Mark Jensen. The settlement provides large payouts to unrelated organizations, bans several previous directors from rejoining, and promises to pay out as much as $175,000 to Jensen should certain conditions occur.

Jensen was a director of the Holiday Treasure Chest Charity Foundation, a nonprofit formed in 2008 as “Seafair Pirates Charity Foundation.” The foundation received at least one unlawful payment from Maryfest for $10,000 as a result of the secret settlement.

In early 2017 Mayor Jon Nehring called a meeting between the city and some Maryfest officers because of concerns about Jensen, who was vice president. Jensen agreed to resign but not before binding Maryfest to a separation agreement.

The agreement says Maryfest would ban some previous board members from rejoining, pay Jensen $25,000 per individual if they did, defend Jensen from any claims brought by previous board members, donate $10,000 to the Treasure Chest charity, donate $4,000 to the Marysville Community Lunch Program in his name, and keep the agreement confidential, even from non-executive committee Maryfest board members.

The papers say a number of issues should void the secret pact. The previous Maryfest board lacked a quorum for the “Secret Settlement.” It also wasn’t done in an open meeting. Jensen, and the rest of the officers, failed to act in good faith and in the best interest of Maryfest. And the $175,000 part of the pact also is void because Maryfest’s articles of incorporation prohibit such a disbursement. Maryfest president Jodi Hiatt said in a separate email that the current board “supports this action by the attorney general and believes the purported agreement was legally defective and not in the best interest of Maryfest Inc. or the Marysville community.”

Hiatt said by phone Wednesday that with Kapua returning she hopes the Tulalip Tribes and other sponsors also will return.

“They have been wonderful supporters in the past,” Hiatt said.

The only major changes this year will be the return of the Fashion Show, and there won’t be any fireworks. Hiatt said that was because the city was planning to have fireworks on July 4, but that didn’t pan out.

Despite the late start, Hiatt said Maryfest has a strong board and “their hearts are into it. We will do everything we can to put on a festival that will make this community proud.”

This year’s 87th festival will take place June 9-17.

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