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City Assailed in Keys Case

In watching the televised Ventura City Council meeting of March 11, the subject again came up regarding the use of taxpayer money by the city in the defense of a lawsuit brought concerning pollution of the Ventura Keys. I feel it is important to clear up some misinformation, or disinformation.

City taxpayers should understand this lawsuit was filed after repeated efforts to abate the pollution that exists within the keys. At first, the city denied that there were any water-quality standards. After I discovered that water-quality standards not only apply but have applied since 1978, the response of the city was that these standards were inappropriate. After I pointed out that the pollution levels were 24 to 160 times in excess of levels considered dangerous under state and federal law, the city finally conceded the issue--but only after they were told by the State Water Resources Control Board and the Environmental Protection Agency that both those agencies would oppose the city’s efforts in reducing those standards.

Still, the pollution continued, and I filed a lawsuit. Once the city was sued, it immediately put a clamp on the release of all public information, including the release of information relating to public health. The City Council then hired not one but two San Francisco law firms. If the city intends to spend a small fortune on two law firms to defend a solo practitioner homeowner, one would think they would at least use local talent.

To illustrate some of the wasted taxpayers’ expense, consider their “defense strategy.” After putting a claim on the release of public information concerning community health matters, I asked for documents that the statutes concerning litigation permit me. Not only did the city seek a court order preventing this (the city lost), but it flew a San Francisco attorney down to Ventura on this losing motion.

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Next, I took the deposition of the coastal project manager for the city of Ventura to obtain information that should have been otherwise available to the public. This time, they flew down two attorneys from San Francisco to meet with me the day before the deposition, and we had a breakfast meeting at the hotel they were staying at--the Pierpont. No Motel 6 for our city’s defense team.

The next day, when I conducted the deposition, the city flew down another attorney from San Francisco from the other firm to represent the witness. What I find appalling is the sheer waste of taxpayers’ money on the defense of this indefensible case. There are probably illegal sewer lines running somewhere into the Arundell Barranca that account for the consistently high levels of pollution. Rather than investing city resources into tracking this down, as well as preventing the ongoing deposition of the city’s debris into our marina, the city has consciously chosen an expensive course of protracted litigation.

DONALD M. ADAMS, Jr.

Ventura

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