City should settle, not appeal, lawsuit
I want the mayor and council to hold an open meeting dealing with this award without restricting public comment.
So the Forest Grove City Council has filed an appeal of the $6.5 million verdict against the city.
It's asking the District Court judge to overturn the verdict, reduce the plaintiff's legal fees and dismiss the case.
What a brave group you are. You are playing a game called 'Let's Pretend.'
Let's pretend we didn't abuse our power. Let's pretend the jury turned against us. Let's pretend some sort of conspiracy exists.
Let's pretend this didn't happen. Let's delay any action for as long as possible.
Okay, we'll all wait until next January for the judge to overturn the verdict, reduce the fees and dismiss the case.
That ain't gonna happen.
The same judge who heard the case will not entertain any of your requests. Then you'll have to decide what to do.
Let's pretend you gathered enough courage to face the fact that you lost and that you did abuse your power.
Let's pretend that you faced the public, admitted your mistakes, terminated the abusers, and agreed to negotiate. This whole debacle could be ended in a week.
Some have suggested that I have an 'interest' in such a settlement with David Hill Development, LLC. And by suggesting that, it is inferred that I am being paid by someone.
Fair question, as I seem to be the only one who has continued to publicly ask for answers from the city council. To set the record straight, allow me to state that I do not have a dog in this fight! I am not on anyone's payroll.
I will not be given a commission or anything else. I did the initial due diligence for David Hill Development, LLC several years ago and was paid for the work.
I attended most of the important meetings with the city staff, Clean Water Services, DEQ, etc. I met with then-Mayor Richard Kidd, City Manager Mike Sykes, Public Works Director Rob Foster, and Project Manager Steve Wood, trying to get them to do their jobs. As a consequence of their collective 'abuse of power' a federal jury found them guilty.
I may be the only person in the equation who knows all of the players and knows what should have been done and when. The present city council kept this matter a secret.
They failed to take the advice of their own attorney. They delayed the project and now they are squirming, blaming others, pointing fingers, circulating rumors and trying to make it look like the developer was at fault.
My bet is that rather than instructing the lawyers to negotiate a settlement now, the council will appeal to the higher court which will allow you to slip quietly away from responsibility.
Silence worked for five years before and it will take that long for the case to be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
If that happens, this present council will have been replaced and we'll be forced to pay the price for their failure: $6.5 million plus $1.5 million in attorney fees - $8 million.
Our insurance coverage is $5 million if the insurance company pays the full amount, which may not happen. But let's say it does. It appears then that we are on the hook for $3 million dollars.
There is no easy way out. We are all in this together but in my opinion we have been betrayed by those in whom we placed our trust.
I am asking for honesty by our elected officials. Accountability at all levels of city government. Leadership by the city council.
I want the mayor and council to hold an open, well-advertised, public meeting dealing with this award without restricting public comment.
I want a public meeting before any appeal is filed.
To file an appeal to a higher court is gambling with our money. Only 18 percent of the cases that are appealed are reversed. Eighty-two percent of the lower courts decisions are upheld.
I don't think the council should be allowed to appeal. This administration caused the problem and this administration should pay the price now.
Now is the time to negotiate a settlement with the developer, pay whatever is agreed upon, and terminate (without a severance payment) Sykes, who was in charge of the city staff and Foster, who did nothing but procrastinate while the review languished in his department.
Collectively, these men abused their power, and as noted, 'We the jury believe there are more people within the City of Forest Grove who played a role to some degree of responsibility in this case.'
Could they be referring to the city council, whose members are still seeking a way out of this mess they created?
- Aldie Howard lives in Forest Grove.