UPDATE FEB 29 12:31 P.M.: The clock ticked past the Friday afternoon deadline last week given by Anaheim community leaders who vowed to legally challenge the $158 million dollar tax giveaway GardenWalk hotel project. An invitation to city officials and one of the hoteliers to sit down at the table to negotiate was extended via two letters, but no will on the part of the addressed was expressed.
"We never heard from anybody after sending those letters," says Eric Altman, Executive Director of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD). "We understand that it was on the agenda for the closed session at yesterday's meeting, but they didn't report out anything so we don't know."
With that being the case, clients have become plaintiffs and are moving forward on the legal front. "This morning we filed the lawsuit," Altman says ahead of a press conference to be held later today outside of Ponderosa Elementary school library in Anaheim. The choice of venue for the formal announcement highlights the perversion of priorities at the heart of the tale of two cities critique. Altman says that the promise of the school's library being open after-hours has not been kept with funding issues being the reason given all the while massive bed-tax concessions were metered out by a 3-2 vote in January.
"We would not file a lawsuit if we did not have a good case. This is not only a poor use of public resources, it's not just a bad idea, we believe it's an illegal gift of funds," he adds. The letters issued also alleged Ralph M Brown Act violations in the approval of the hotel deal and the plaintiffs promise to add them to the suit should the city fail to cure them.
There is also movement by the outraged to try and have the GardenWalk hotel project fiasco put to a public vote. "Depending on what the city does next week, the people of Anaheim will have a say at the ballot box, "Altman affirms. "As a result of the lawsuit we filed today, the people of Anaheim will definitely have their day in court."
ORIGINAL POST FEB 22 1:00 P.M.: One week after residents vented anger at a local town hall over an Anaheim city council vote to give a $158 million tax handout to a GardenWalk hotel development, things have taken a turn for the litigious.
Mayor Tom Tait, who cast a dissenting vote, had previously told residents at a council meeting that the issue was a done deal by law. Council members Kris Murray and Gail Eastman were zip-lipped at the KABC-TV Channel 7-sponsored forum last week.
So how would the outraged fight back? People sported recall buttons for Harry Sidhu, Murray and Eastman, but there's no real or apparent traction on that front. A petition made the rounds as others vowed to remember come November.
Not content on waiting that long, blowback came in the form of two letters sent yesterday afternoon on behalf of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD) as well as Anaheim community leaders Amin David, Martin Lopez, Jose Moreno and Lorena Moreno (Amin and Jose, of course, are the emeritus chair and current chair of Los Amigos). Addressed to the Mayor, city council, and hotel development project head Ajesh Patel, the Briggs Law Corporation said that its clients intend to file suit in order to invalidate the tax subsidy on numerous grounds. Copies of the letters shared with the Weekly states that it "resulted in a gift of tens of millions of dollars in public funds, exceeded the City's economic-assistance authority established in April 2008, did not receive prior environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act and violated the Ralph M. Brown Act."
In the letter solely addressed to city officials, alleged Brown Act violations are spelled out in detail. Turning back to the January 24 city council meeting, Item 23 --the GardenWalk Hotel Project--on the agenda was said to have been inadequately described, noting the ways how the public was not properly informed as to the finality of the approval vote for the two contracts in question.
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The Brown Act was said to have been violated once more as no notice to the public was properly worded or given in terms of the city council's apparent ability to deviate from the aforementioned economic-assistance policy requirements put into place in April 2008. Residents were clearly caught off-guard as the wrath came in the aftermath. City Hall became a chamber full of anger at both a special meeting called by the Mayor on January 31 that failed to meet quorum because Sidhu, Murray and Eastman no-showed and the city council meeting that followed after the deal was signed.
The firm representing OCCORD and the four Anaheim community leaders says that its clients are open to negotiations in an attempt to resolve the dispute without turning to litigation. The clock, however, is ticking, and fast. Citing Brown Act statute of limitations that could run up as early as next Tuesday, Cory J. Briggs of Briggs Law asks the addressed parties to put in writing their willingness to participate in such talks by no later than 3 p.m. Friday. If the deadline comes and goes without nary a peep, all time will be devoted to preparing the lawsuit.
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock...