Laguna officials now admit a developers oceanfront project will cost taxpayers up to $6 million

Peterson's negotiating partner didn't fare better under close questioning. Iseman asked Freeman why he assumed on behalf of Laguna taxpayers a previously undisclosed liability for $200,000 or more of the developer's environmental-cleanup costs. Freeman's response: he gave that concession to the developer after the referendum in return for a promise that the property would not be reopened as a mobile-home park. Nobody pointed out that the referendum—which Freeman helped place on the ballot—had already made that an impossibility. As if his words could soothe ugly reality, Freeman held steadfast. The post-election concession, he maintained, was a "substantial value" for taxpayers.

"All I can say is that we've been having these discussions for years. All I can say is that I think this is a good framework. I think it's a fair agreement," said a visibly rattled but unrepentant Freeman, who repeatedly broke council protocol by seeking guidance from the developer's representative in the audience. Then, with all the sincerity he could muster, Freeman said, "I hope everybody keeps on top of this."

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