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2018 in review: Top stories of the year in Fountain Valley

2018 in review: Top stories of the year in Fountain Valley
The eight candidates for Fountain Valley City Council gather for a pre-election forum in September. (File Photo)

City Council lineup changes were a recurring topic in Fountain Valley this year, along with local impacts of statewide stories such as the Golden State Killer and “sanctuary” immigration laws.

Here are some of Fountain Valley’s top stories of 2018:

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Council elections

The City Council seated two new members and kept a familiar face after the November elections.

Incumbent Michael Vo, Planning Commissioner Patrick Harper and local activist Kim Constantine took the three available seats in the eight-candidate field.

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405 Freeway work

The years-long 405 Freeway widening project officially reached Fountain Valley in September with the demolition of the Slater Avenue bridge.

The bridge, which will be rebuilt as part of the larger project, will be out of service for about a year.

Insurance fraud case

The owner and an employee of a Fountain Valley-based treatment facility, along with five doctors and four “body brokers,” were charged in what authorities say was a scheme to fraudulently bill insurance companies more than $6.8 million for experimental, unnecessary and potentially harmful surgeries on recovering addicts.

The Orange County district attorney’s office alleged in September that two administrators at SoberLife USA hired marketers, or body brokers, to approach people at sober-living homes and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to persuade them to receive surgical implants of naltrexone, a prescription drug used to manage opioid and alcohol dependence.

Outcome of murder case confirmed

Lawyer Annee Della Donna holds a photo July 25 of William Lee Evins, who pleaded guilty in 1985 to second-degree murder in the killing six years earlier of Joan Anderson of Fountain Valley. Della Donna argued in July that the Golden State Killer had actually committed the crime.
Lawyer Annee Della Donna holds a photo July 25 of William Lee Evins, who pleaded guilty in 1985 to second-degree murder in the killing six years earlier of Joan Anderson of Fountain Valley. Della Donna argued in July that the Golden State Killer had actually committed the crime. (File Photo)

The district attorney’s office this summer reviewed evidence from a 1979 Fountain Valley rape and murder case that long had been considered solved to see whether it actually was committed by the prolific Golden State Killer.

However, DNA found on the hammer used to bludgeon Joan Anderson in her home confirmed that William Lee Evins, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1985, was responsible for her death, prosecutors announced in December. Evins died in prison in 2013.

Joseph James DeAngelo, who is accused of being the Golden State Killer, was apprehended in April and is awaiting trial on 13 murder charges in connection with deaths in Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Orange counties.

Police shooting ruled justified

Investigators from the district attorney’s office determined in July that three Fountain Valley police sergeants were “reasonable and justified” when they shot and wounded Matthew Earl Snoyman as he drove a pickup through the scene of a fatal crash in October 2017.

Police were investigating the crash at the intersection of Magnolia and Mint avenues when Snoyman drove around police roadblocks and toward officers, authorities said. He suffered a gunshot wound to a shoulder.

Snoyman pleaded guilty this summer to driving under the influence of alcohol, two counts of assault on an officer and one count of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.

‘Sanctuary’ opposition

An audience member at a Fountain Valley City Council meeting in April demonstrates his support for a federal lawsuit targeting California’s "sanctuary" laws that expand protections for undocumented immigrants.
An audience member at a Fountain Valley City Council meeting in April demonstrates his support for a federal lawsuit targeting California’s "sanctuary" laws that expand protections for undocumented immigrants. (File Photo)

Fountain Valley joined a pushback by several Orange County local governments against California’s “sanctuary” immigration laws when it signed on in April to a brief supporting a federal lawsuit challenging the laws expanding protections for undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation.

The brief was prepared by the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based legal affiliate of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled FAIR a hate group.

Fountain Valley officials defended the city’s involvement with FAIR’s brief, though some critics took the council to task over the association.

Mayoral rotation

Then-Councilman Mark McCurdy, left, watches Michael Vo take Fountain Valley's mayoral oath of office in December 2017. McCurdy had been skipped twice in the mayoral rotation before he resigned from the council in January.
Then-Councilman Mark McCurdy, left, watches Michael Vo take Fountain Valley's mayoral oath of office in December 2017. McCurdy had been skipped twice in the mayoral rotation before he resigned from the council in January. (File Photo)

The City Council voted in April to maintain its discretion in mayoral appointments, using council seniority as a suggested but not steadfast rule.

The issue surfaced a few months after the council voted, for the second year in a row, to skip then-Councilman Mark McCurdy when he came up in the rotation.

Fountain Valley council members choose the mayor and mayor pro tem from among themselves for the one-year, largely ceremonial posts. The mayor pro tem typically is next in line for the top spot.

McCurdy, who was first elected to the council in 2010, stepped down in January, saying he needed to “secure employment outside the area.” He previously said he believed his council colleagues passed him over in the mayoral rotation for 2017 and ’18 because of his often nonconformist views.

However, some council members had frowned on his absences from several city planning meetings.

Former longtime Councilman Larry Crandall returned to fill out the rest of McCurdy’s term this year.

Fountain Valley Crossings

The City Council in January approved the Fountain Valley Crossings Specific Plan, a package of zoning changes that eventually could allow redevelopment of 162 acres of a mostly industrial area in the southwest part of town.

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The specific plan, a major focus of the council and city Planning Commission in 2017, allows a mix of uses including retail, offices, industrial and residential in an area that had been zoned for manufacturing. It does not identify specific development projects.

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