Toy store owner appeals examiner decision

The appeal amends his lawsuit against the city seeking to protect the mural at Inland Octopus.

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WALLA WALLA - The Inland Octopus toy store owner who is trying to save his painted mural on constitutional grounds has filed a formal court appeal.

Bob Catsiff's appeal of last month's Walla Walla hearing examiner's decision was filed Thursday in Superior Court. The appeal amends Catsiff's initial lawsuit against the city of Walla Walla.

On Nov. 18, attorneys on both sides of the dispute entered into a formal, administrative agreement that the giant octopus painted on Catsiff's storefront at 7 E. Main St. is a wall sign contrary to city code because of its large size. Walla Walla Hearing Examiner Leland Kerr then signed an order that day affirming fines the city is assessing on Catsiff and requiring him to comply with the code if he loses his appeal.

Catsiff claims the mural is a type of constitutionally protected artistic expression and therefore, the sign code imposing restrictions on the painting violates his constitutional right of free speech.

The appeal also maintains there are similar mural-type displays on downtown walls that apparently haven't been regulated or prohibited.

Catsiff is asking that a Superior Court judge - likely Donald W. Schacht since he ruled earlier on a preliminary matter - declare the related ordinances void and the city be enjoined from enforcing them.

No hearings were immediately set. Considering further possible appeals, the legal case could take months or years to conclude.

The city has agreed not to enforce removal of the octopus painting pending a final resolution. But daily fines of $100 that began Oct. 14 are continuing to accrue and will be collected if the city ultimately wins.

The mural was painted on the storefront during the Labor Day weekend. Catsiff did not obtain a permit to have it painted or a permit to occupy the city right of way in the process. He also did not obtain a permit for an octopus and rainbow painting on the back of the building earlier in the year. He has been assessed a total of $300 in one-time fines for those violations.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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