In March, a painting crew from out of town worked to quickly cover the Inland Octopus toy store mural on Main Street in Walla Walla.
Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.
WALLA WALLA — The city of Walla Walla has agreed to reduce fines against Inland Octopus toy store owner Bob Catsiff in an effort to promote continued operation of the business, according to City Manager Nabiel Shawa.
Catsiff owed the city $90,025 for refusing to remove the giant octopus mural over his leased building at 7 E. Main St. for about two-and-a-half years. The amount included fines that accrued at the rate of $100 a day from Oct. 14, 2010, until March 28 of this year when the city painted over the sign.
But in a settlement signed Thursday by Catsiff and Shawa, the city will accept $10,041.42 from Catsiff, spread out in monthly payments of $279 over three years.
A news release from Shawa this morning characterizes the amount as “reasonable, but substantial,” and says it covers the $5,041 of out-of-pocket costs incurred by the city, plus a penalty.
In addition, Catsiff has agreed to fully comply with city sign regulations in the future. If he doesn’t, or fails to make his payments no later than the 15th day of each month, he’ll immediately be liable to pay the full $90,025.
“It has never been our intent to cause harm to a small business,” Shawa said in the release. “Our goal has always been to enforce the laws that are already in place. We were hoping for an outcome that both parties would feel good about, and are pleased that we were able to achieve that.”
Catsiff issued his own release, acknowledging the magnitude of the octopus mural issue and expressing gratitude for the “overwhelming support” he’s received.
“The continued viability of my business is of the utmost importance to me and to this community. The settlement agreement reached (Thursday) between the city of Walla Walla and me allows for that.
“Additionally, it will allow me to again focus all my energy on making Inland Octopus the greatest toy store in the world.”
The octopus painting Catsiff commissioned on Labor Day weekend 2010 was erected without a permit and was too large under the city’s sign code. The city ordered it removed and imposed the fines. But Catsiff fought in court, claiming his constitutional free-speech rights were being violated.
He lost all the battles, including an appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Terry McConn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8319.