Dunsmuir councilors stay out of Arth v. Raine lawsuit
Dunsmuir councilors did not approve a resolution last week that would have directed city attorney John Kenny and city manager Brenda Bains to facilitate “mediation” in the Arth v. Raine lawsuit.
Councilor Leslie Wilde voted yes to approve the resolution while mayor Ed Steele and councilor Dave Keisler said no, pointing out they have nothing to do with the litigation.
“You’re asking me to be a quarterback in a game that’s not mine,” said Keisler. “Why does the city need to mediate? I don’t see where it’s on us.”
Steele said he doesn’t want to see the current council get involved in the lawsuit and potentially assume liability.
“We have begun the process to address the water rate structure,” Steele told Peter Arth and his attorney, David Hicks.
“I won’t do it under arbitrary guidelines set by you,” Steele said.
Arth said he will take the council’s refusal to approve the resolution as “a desire to go back in front of the judge.”
“If you don’t want to talk to the petitioner, we will do Arth II,” he said.
Arth v. Raine
Both Arth and Hicks spoke at length about the reasons they feel the current council should move forward with the resolution that would “encourage a settlement” of the Arth v. Raine court case and any further pending litigation.
Prior to the council’s vote, Bains said she did not write the draft resolution herself; it was provided to the city by Wilde.
Wilde said the resolution doesn’t mention monetary awards but merely directs the city to enter into mediation in regard to the case.
Arth v. Raine, et al. was brought against four former city councilors who have since resigned or lost their seats. They were represented in court by the city’s SCORE attorney, James Wyatt. Though the city was at first listed as a defendant, it was later dropped from the lawsuit.
The civil complaint accused former councilors of violations of the Brown Act, violations of the Political Reform Act, violation of Common Law Conflict of Interest and waste. Judge Arjuna Saraydarian, retired from Riverside County on Jan. 14 ordered all relief requested be denied.
The case is currently on appeal, said Hicks.
At one point in the discussion, Keisler stood up from his seat and pointed at Hicks, shouting that Hicks told him if the city awarded him $15,000, the case would be dropped.
Hicks denied having said that and pointed out SCORE, the city’s insurance company, would be paying any fees associated with the lawsuit, not the city itself. He said Arth has brought the case forward not for his own benefit, but in defense of city residents who are burdened by Dunsmuir’s unfair water rate structure.
Also at the Aug. 15 meeting, councilors discussed a possible transparent government ordinance that would require all public documents be posted online at the city’s website.
The website should also have the ability to stream council meetings.
“I like it,” said Keisler, though he said the state already requires transparency so he’s not sure the city needs an ordinance.
Wilde said she’s looking into the future and without a law in place to specify the documents be made easily accessible, future councils may decide to stop posting the
Steele suggested Bains look for a transparency ordinance that other cities have already adopted and asked her to bring examples to the next meeting.
Also at the Aug. 15 meeting, council:
• Unanimously agreed to hire PACE Engineering to provide labor code compliance monitoring at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant as well as Grade III plant operator services while a permanent city employee is recruited for the position;
• Approved a Memorandum of Understanding to join with the city of Mount Shasta and other local entities to create a Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.
The vote was 2-1, with Keisler voting no. He was in favor of tabling the item until he could speak again with a Native American chief who is concerned about his tribe’s sovereignity.
Wilde said there are many parties who have already agreed to the memorandum and Steele agreed.
The process to create the plan has been ongoing for more than two years and when it is established, it gives signatories access to Proposition 50 and Prop. 84 bonds, grants and other money for water and wetlands projects.
The council is scheduled to meet next on Thursday, Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. at Council Chambers, 5902 Dunsmuir Avenue.