Friday, September 03, 2010

An Article About Two Lawsuits

Ms. Ashley Ratcliff is a very good reporter. She handles reporting on city matters of four cities on The Hill for The Palos Verdes Peninsula News.

The following article appeared in the newspaper in Wednesday September 2, 2010.

I placed this article on this blog instead of my East R.P.V. blog to offer residents of other communities a better understanding of what is included in both lawsuits.

Two lawsuits arise surrounding Marymount initiative
Thursday, September 2, 2010 10:51 AM PDT

College, electeds, and residents at odds over ballot arguments.
By Ashley Ratcliff, Peninsula News

RPV — Just days after Marymount College President Dr. Michael Brophy sued Rancho Palos Verdes City Council members to contest language used in the ballot argument against Measure P, an RPV attorney on Monday filed a similar petition aimed at the group refuting initiative opponents’ statements.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe determined on Wednesday that both cases will be heard simultaneously on Sept. 8, in time to meet the county clerk’s printing deadline for the Nov. 2 general election ballot arguments.

RPV Planning Commissioner Jeff Lewis, who filed the second lawsuit, said he objects to the portion of the Marymount supporters’ rebuttal stating that the initiative “guarantees that Marymount College meets all city codes,” an assertion that he characterizes as “demonstrably false.”

“When the rebuttal arguments came out, I thought that I would mount a challenge because if I didn’t do it, nobody else would,” he said.

The News’ request for comment from Brophy was returned by a Marymount campaign consultant, who said the Englander Knabe & Allen firm would respond on his behalf going forward.

“This lawsuit is obviously a retaliatory act based on fictitious legal theory, and we are confident we will prevail in court,” Marymount consultant Ruben Gonzalez wrote in a statement.

Named in Lewis’ suit are former Mayor Barbara Ferraro, RPV resident De De Hicks, PVP Watch newsletter co-Editor Don Reeves and Marymount board members Dick Grotz and John Murname.

“I’m surprised but not surprised,” said Reeves, declining to comment further.

If approved by voters on Nov. 2, the initiative would create a “campus specific plan” for the 25-acre college campus. Its $50-million-plus master plan would grant on-campus housing for 250 students.

Councilman Doug Stern, a target of the college’s suit filed last Thursday, said there are several places within the 51-page initiative that reference amending RPV’s general plan, zoning ordinances and municipal code, thereby contradicting the statement that the project will comply with RPV laws.

“How can they say to the voters that all the city codes apply? They said they don’t [in their initiative],” he added.

According to Page 13 of the document, “Whenever provisions of this specific plan differ either in being more restrictive or less restrictive from provisions contained in the RPV [municipal code], or any other land development ordinance, statute, regulation or policy, this specific plan shall supersede those other provisions.”

Prior to filing the petition, Lewis said he attempted to speak directly to Brophy about the language in question — to avoid going to court — but was prevented from doing so.

“I thought long and hard about whether I should file a lawsuit. … I’m not disputing Marymount’s right to have an election. I just want all the arguments to be honest,” Lewis added.

College challenges council

Marymount attorney Paul Gough said the “No” on Measure P ballot argument, penned by three councilmen and signed with two well-known residents, contains four “false and misleading” statements, specifically in the paragraph stating that the initiative “eliminates city oversight.”

According to the petition, the initiative offers many chances for RPV officials to review and issue permits for the project. The City Council, it states, has “decision-making authority” for deviations in conditions outlined in the plan that exceed 15 percent.

Gough hopes the statements in question will be deleted or amended from the ballot argument. Brophy also seeks compensation for attorneys’ fees.

Calls to Gough for further comment were not returned.

While opponents last week expressed disappointment with the legal action, Harvey Englander, Marymount’s campaign consultant, told the News that he has heard otherwise from supporters.

“The response from the community that we have is, ‘Thank you for making sure that the opponents speak the truth,’” he said. “People are also telling us, ‘Thank you for pointing out that the opponents are running a negative campaign when they issued false and misleading statements.’”

Stern said Brophy’s lawsuit runs counter to his pledge to council weeks ago to “take the high road” with the initiative campaign.

“Oh, my,” Stern said. “A half-a-million-dollar advantage already spent to try to influence the outcome of the election and every time someone tries to communicate to the public a contrary position, Marymount is coming down with an iron hammer. … What’s wrong with democracy in Rancho Palos Verdes and who’s afraid to have an open debate?”

RPV City Clerk Carla Morreale and Dean Logan, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, were named as defendants in the college’s lawsuit. The “real parties in interest” include Mayor Steve Wolowicz and Councilmen Brian Campbell, Tom Long, Anthony Misetich and Stern.

However, Jon Cartwright, president of RPV Council of Homeowners Associations, and former Mayor Ken Dyda, who formed the counter-initiative group Save Our City III, signed the ballot argument with the councilmen — not Campbell and Long.

Englander said the discrepancy was a “technical legal issue.”

“The City Council authorized themselves to publish the argument against it. They’re the ones, according to lawyers, who have to be sued,” he said.

Stern, an experienced attorney, said he will defend himself, as well as Misetich and Wolowicz, who each signed the statement against the initiative. RPV City Attorney Carol Lynch will represent Campbell and Long.

Englander said the lawsuit was the “absolute, only way” the language of the ballot argument could have been addressed, in accordance with state law. He stressed that the suit was not against the city of RPV.

Both the RPV council and Planning Commission have approved the college’s expansion project, granting various campus improvements, such as a new library, athletic facility and field. The college removed the dormitories from its application at the commission level and never were presented to council.

The City Council and Planning Commission both have adopted resolutions opposing Measure P.

Voter pamphlets containing the ballot statements will be distributed to residents starting on Sept. 23.
For additional comments and the truth about The Marymount Plan and ballot Measure P if interested, please go to:

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