Since 2012, judicial candidate Sharon Brown and her ex-husband Fraser Hawley have been almost continuously involved in lawsuits filed against them in Benton-Franklin Superior Court. Now she wants to be a judge there. In her official Candidate Statement she emphasizes her lawmaking in the Washington State Senate:
“As a business lawyer, a City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem, and finally as your State Senator for the past eight years, I have developed a broad and unique skill set to make me an outstanding judge. Since 2013, I have been creating, revising and establishing policy to become law, thus I understand the true meaning of the law, and how it should be applied.”
Brown did not return calls requesting comment. However, public records from the Superior Court as well as Benton County property records and newspaper articles provide information about five lawsuits in which she was named. Settlements were reached in four cases and dates are noted but the full details are not available to the public. The fifth suit is ongoing.
December 11, 2012, Nor Am Investment LLC sued Fraser Hawley and Sharon Brown for payment of a promissory note for $300,000 due to be paid on April 25, 2012. At the time Hawley was working on development in Badger Mountain South. In the court papers Hawley responded that the $300,000 was for earnest money on property for which a purchase and sales agreement had been executed. In addition, Hawley responded that the plaintiff had not compensated Hawley for the reasonable value of the benefits of Hawley’s designs, efforts, engineering and resources. The case was settled in March 2013.
December 2, 2013, Brown and Hawley were sued for “Fraud, Misrepresentation, and Conversion.” According to the complaint in the court records, the plaintiff gave a check to Hawley written to Cynergy Tower Investco for $101,106.33 on July 8, 2011. The check was intended to be an investment in a 22,000 square-foot condominium structure on the real property owned by Cynergy LLC. Hawley and one or more of the other defendants represented that the plaintiffs would become percentage owners of Cynergy Investco. Some months later Plaintiffs discovered that Cynergy Investco was not a legally registered in the state of Washington until about July 9, 2013. In the complaint the plaintiffs asked for interest on the $101,106.33 from July 8, 2011 to September 5, 2013 when the defendants had issued a check for the sum to the plaintiffs. The case was settled in June 2016.
August 29, 2017 Fraser Hawley and Sharon Brown and their business partners sued Banner Bank which was preparing to foreclose on their property at 4309 W. 27th Avenue in Kennewick for a loan of $4,136,678.11 that was due May 30, 2017. The plaintiffs argued that the bank was not negotiating in good faith and fair dealing. They claimed that the value of the Banks collateral greatly exceeded the amount owed on the loans and monthly payments were always timely paid. The owners said the bank knew that while the owners had sufficient assets for repayment, the assets were not liquid and would need to be obtained with the assistance of some financial planning.
On September 12, 2017, Banner Bank countersued Sharon Brown and Fraser Hawley and their business partners regarding the delinquent loan. According to court documents, the original promissory note had been signed on or about April 26, 2007 with an original maturity date of May 1, 2014. But the loan was amended and extended until May 30, 2017. The Bank claimed that they were entitled to immediate turnover of the collateral by the defendants.
The lawsuits were combined and according to court records a settlement was reached in early 2018. Hawley and Brown divorced on March 30, 2018 in Walla Walla, Washington Superior Court. She received the Kennewick property in the divorce settlement but later sold her share to partners on the project.
August 28, 2018, Michael Shemali, owner of MS Properties LLC and a former neighbor of Hawley and Brown, sued them and Thomas W. Arnold for repayment of two loans. This suit is the basis for Kennewick City Council Member John Trumbo’s “investigation” into the sale of Brown’s house and her knowledge of the marijuana business which resulted in an ethics complaint against him.
Shemali claimed that Hawley and Arnold had borrowed $500,000 on February 10, 2016 to be used to purchase equipment, build structures, and otherwise fund the Pure Green cannabis operation. About October 26, 2016, Shemali made a second loan of $250,000 for additional expenses at the cannabis operation. As evidence, Shemali presented the two promissory notes that appeared to have been signed by Hawley and Arnold.
In her response, Sharon Brown claimed that she was not involved in and had no knowledge of the alleged promissory notes and the plaintiffs’ claims against her should be dismissed. Hawley claimed in his response that he had never been provided proof of any money being transferred from Plaintiff Shemali. In addition, Hawley claimed that Arnold and Shemali negotiated the various loan agreements without Hawley.
January 29, 2019, Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom ruled in favor of the plaintiff:
The Court finds that the Complaint does not assert a claim against Ms. Brown in her individual capacity. Rather the Complaint seeks to hold Ms. Brown’s and Mr. Hawley’s marital community, and Mr. Hawley’s separate property, liable for the debt owed on the promissory notes.
The Shemali suit against Brown, Hawley and Arnold continues in the Benton-Franklin Superior Court while Sharon Brown campaigns to be a judge there.