City of Walla Walla, Inland Octopus owner set to agree mural is sign

Inland Octopus owner Bob Catsiff maintains the code infringes on his right to free speech, and a lawsuit is ongoing.

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WALLA WALLA -- The stage has been set for a full-blown legal battle between the city of Walla Walla and the owner of a downtown toy store who wants to save his giant octopus mural.

Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht on Thursday afternoon denied a preliminary injunction request by Bob Catsiff, who filed a lawsuit against the city earlier this month. But the lawsuit will continue and the city meanwhile will not require removal of the octopus. The lawsuit could take weeks or months to conclude.

The dispute will take a brief detour to City Hall on Thursday night for a session with Hearing Examiner Leland B. Kerr. At the session, both sides are expected to agree that the octopus painted above the entrance to Inland Octopus at 7 E. Main St. is a sign and violates city code, as the city has maintained since last month when it ordered Catsiff to remove it.

Catsiff can then add a direct appeal of that finding to his lawsuit, which claims the sign code infringes on his constitutional protections of free speech.

City Attorney Tim Donaldson said in an interview he'll ask Thursday night that enforcement against the mural be stayed until the court process is concluded. That means the octopus can remain for the time-being and -- although daily fines of $100 against Catsiff will continue to accrue -- they won't be collected unless the city ultimately wins the case.

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

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