COASTAL COMMISSION AND PAST AND PRESENT COMMISSIONERS
SUED TO PREVENT ABUSE OF TAXPAYER FUNDS, PREVENT SECRECY
California Coastal Commission and five past or present members of the Commission - Steve Kinsey,Erik Howell, Martha McClure, Wendy Mitchell, and Mark Vargas – to protect California taxpayers from having to pay a judgment entered against the Commissioners in an earlier lawsuit that SOCC won.
This past September, the San Diego County Superior Court entered a judgment against each of the Commissioners after determining they had committed dozens of knowing violations of statutes that prohibit secret meetings with parties having business before the Commission. The Court imposed a combined $57,100 in penalties and then ordered all of them "jointly and severally" to reimburse SOCC's legal expenses in the amount of $959,000.
The Commissioners were defended in the earlier lawsuit by the Attorney General, who
informed the Superior Court before it entered judgment that "the Attorney General's office was
representing private individuals sued in their personal capacity, not the People of California".
However, former Commissioner McClure subsequently told the press that the Commission had
agreed, even before the trial began, to indemnify all five defendants for any amounts they were
required to pay as penalties or as legal expenses. When SOCC asked the Commission to provide
a copy of the indemnity agreement, the Commission refused to disclose the document on the basis of attorney-client privilege. However, agreements between public agencies and indemnified
individuals are not subject to the attorney-client privilege.
"The taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab when government officials knowingly
break the law. And if the taxpayers are on the hook, the agreement that puts them there cannot be
kept secret," said SOCC's president Kathryn Burton. "Taxpayers are entitled to know what they are paying for and why they must pay."
The new lawsuit asks the Superior Court to invalidate any indemnity agreement and order
the Commission to fully disclose what it has been doing in secret in connection with any such
ATTORNEY GENERAL, COASTAL COMMISSION ATTORNEYS ASKED FOR EVIDENCE PROVING THEY DID NOT “AID OR ABET” CONFLICT-OF-INTEREST VIOLATIONS BY COMMISSIONERS
Spotlight on Coastal Corruption has asked former California Attorney General (now U.S. Senator) Kamala Harris, current Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and other attorneys in the Attorney General’s Office and at the California Coastal Commission to provide evidence that they did not “aid or abet” violations of the state’s prohibition against conflicts of interest.
SOCC recently learned that the Coastal Commission agreed to indemnify the five individual defendants in SOCC’s lawsuit over their ex parte violations. Earlier this month a judgment of roughly $959,000 was entered against each of the defendants “jointly and severally” to cover SOCC’s attorney fees and court costs. After that ruling, the Commission revealed for the first time that it had agreed to indemnify the defendants for all amounts they must pay in the lawsuit. The agreement conflicts with the Attorney General’s representations to the court that his office was “representing private individuals sued in their personal capacity, not the People of California.”
If an agreement was made between any of the individual defendants and the Commission, it could represent a violation of Government Code Section 1090(a). Section 1090(b) prohibits persons from aiding or abetting public officials in violation Section 1090(a). SOCC is therefore requesting all evidence showing that the attorneys who worked on the lawsuit did not aid or abet the individual defendants in making an illegal indemnity agreement. (SOCC made a similar request to the Commission, but it refused to disclose the information.)
Request For Evidence 2018-09-25_request_evidence.pdf
COASTAL COMMISSION ASKED TO CEASE AND DESIST FROM SECRET MEETINGS
Spotlight on Coastal Corruption sent a cease-and-desist letter to
the California Coastal Commission to demand that it stop holding
secret meetings to discuss SOCC's lawsuit - a lawsuit to which
the Commission is not a party.
You can read the letter here: 2018-09-11_Cure_Request.pdf
COASTAL COMMISSION BELIEVES COMMISSIONERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO BREAK THE LAW
In a stunning disclosure this week (Sept. 13, 2018), it was revealed that not only did the Attorney General represent the Commissioners who violated the law and represented them as "individuals," but in November 2016 the Coastal Commission agreed to indemnify these five commissioners from having to pay anything. In other words, any fines or expenses, such as legal fees, will be paid by the taxpayers, not by the defendants. This sets an unbelievably bad precedent, not only for the Commissioners but for all public servants. If the taxpayers are required to pay the culprits' fines, then there was no penalty for having broken the law and public officials will feel free to continue to break the law with impunity. Taxpayers are not required to pay fines for officials who violate the Political Reform Act and other good-government laws. Fines and fees imposed under the Coastal Act should be no different.
Spotlight is currently investigating options to right this wrong. Check this website
periodically for updates.
DEFENDANTS APPEAL DECISION
ATTORNEY GENERAL TO REPRESENT THEM AT TAXPAYERS EXPENSE
The five Commissioners who lost Spotlight's lawsuit against them have filed an appeal with the assistance of the Attorney General's Office. Even though the Deputy Attorney General admitted in court that the Office was defending the Commissioners "as private individuals sued in their personal capacity, not the People of California," the Office will continue to represent them on appeal at a huge cost to the taxpayers. The defense costs for the trial cost the taxpayers more than $649,000, according to the Attorney General’s Office. That amount will only go up when the appeal costs are included.
Spotlight filed a cross-appeal because the judge ruled that violations more than one year old were not subject to fines, even if the violations were unknown to the public. Spotlight believes that it should have been allowed to seek fines going back for three years from the date on which the violations were discovered.
Check this website periodically for updates on the appeal process.
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