Posts Tagged ‘lawsuit’
Another voice has been added to a growing chorus that says Security National, owner of the polluted Eureka Balloon Track, is stonewalling the California Coastal Commission.
Followers of the controversy know that SN has, in recent months, turned 180° by waving the flag of the Regional Water Quality Control Board — as if the conservative banking class had suddenly embraced a system of regulation.
But it appears Water Quality Executive Officer Catherine Kuhlman won’t be played like that. In a letter to Security National henchman Randy Gans, she echoes other recent remarks about how SN is stonewalling the California Coastal Commission. Even better, Kuhlman isn’t offering a skirt for SN to hide behind in its lawsuit against the CCC.
The Coastal Commission has requested from you additional information as part of that appeal process. It is our understanding that you have not yet provided that information and have filed suit against the Coastal Commission, asserting, in part, that pursuant to Public Resources Code section 30412(b) the Coastal Commission does not have the authority to take any action that would conflict with the implementation the SIRAP. We disagree, however, that the Coastal Commission is taking any action that is in conflict with a determination by the Regional Water Board relating to water quality. Our concurrence with your SIRAP was conditioned upon your obtaining all required permits, including a coastal development permit, and was not intended to, nor do we believe it could, supplant the independent regulatory authority of the Coastal Commission or any other agency…
Our concurrence with your proposed SIRAP recognized that several of the activities you proposed required permits from other agencies, which you have not obtained.
Security National is owned by local big shot and failed banker Rob Arkley.
Download the full letter or read it here.
Investment managers, labor unions and politicians often get the blame for exploding debt in government pension plans. But some critics point to another culprit: actuaries, the financial experts expected to make sure the plans are sound.
The case of one East Bay actuary shows the deep impact of inaccurate benefit calculations. Ira Summer and the firm he owns, Public Pension Professionals, have been accused of errors that cost local government plans in California and Florida millions.
Fresno and Kern counties were among the entities that sustained losses on Summer’s watch. In both San Joaquin Valley communities, the growing shortfall now threatens the financial health of pension plans.
Actuaries are responsible for the economic and demographic assumptions that ensure employees and employers pay enough into a plan. They estimate how much a plan will make from investments, how long retirees will live, what will happen to salaries over time.
Pension boards approve the assumptions, but board members tend to rely on the expertise of actuaries because the estimates are based on complex information.
Summer has made millions of dollars from contracting with local governments in California, some of which retained him for several years. In one year alone, he earned about $400,000 total from five California counties where his firm provided actuarial service.
In separate lawsuits, Fresno and Kern counties successfully sued Summer and his firm for professional negligence. Fresno reached a settlement, and Kern won in court. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District also won a judgment against Summer, and shoddy work has been alleged by pension managers in San Mateo, Tulare and Imperial counties.
Some communities may have skipped legal action because Summer let his insurance lapse in 2006, leaving little financial recourse for those who win suits.
Summer said he couldn’t comment for this story because he’s involved in a dispute with insurers.
Records show, however, that Summer has acknowledged mistakes in plans he handled. In 2006, when Fresno County’s retirement board had his work audited, Summer promised to correct errors, according to board minutes. That same year, Summer told a retirement board in Palm Bay, Fla., that his firm had erred in some calculations, according to that board’s minutes.
When one pension plan replaced Summer, the new actuary found that an error by Summer had had a significant financial impact, according to a report by the Conference of Consulting Actuaries. The report doesn’t identify which plan, and the conference would not elaborate.
Summer declined to help the actuary get to the bottom of the mistake and failed to cooperate in the conference’s investigation of his conduct, according to the conference, which took the rare step of publicly reprimanding Summer.
Fresno County’s pension shortfall has grown fourfold in the last five years, to almost $800 million last year – one of the biggest increases among the state’s largest local government plans.
Investment losses account for about one-third of that increased shortfall, records show. More debt was created by actuarial changes to the plan, including changes resulting from Summer’s work.
In 2006, four years after he was hired, Fresno County requested an independent audit of Summer’s work. Although aware of problems with Summer elsewhere, county retirement administrator Roberto Peña said the audit was done simply because it is good practice to do so.
The audit by actuaries in the San Francisco office of the Segal Co. turned up a number of problems. First, following Summer’s advice, the county required employees to pay for cost-of-living increases in the plan, breaking the previous practice of splitting that cost with employers, and differing from other plans across the state, auditors found.
The Fresno County Employees’ Retirement Association opted to reimburse the employees, further depleting the fund.
The audit also turned up problems with how Summer calculated inflation for some pensioners.
While those mistakes might not appear serious, they carried high costs.
“All of the changes that affect plan cost, the impact is multiplied for plans that have relatively larger benefits,” said Paul Angelo, the Segal actuary who audited Summer and later replaced him as Fresno’s actuary.
Fresno County has one of the most generous plans in the state. The county had to set up a supplemental pension because then-Gov. Gray Davis vetoed the higher benefit approved by county leaders in 2000.
As a result of corrections made after the audit, the county’s pension shortfall grew by almost $160 million, records show.
In its lawsuit, Fresno County’s retirement association accused Summer and his firm of causing $99 million in damages to the plan. The association’s attorney claimed Summer was running a “sham company” out of his home, and said the company had “a long and exotic history of failing to ensure that they have the assets or insurance necessary to satisfy the many claims against it.”
Because of Summer’s insurance problems, the retirement association agreed to settle the suit for $250,000 last year, Peña said.
In retrospect, he said, the association erred by not checking Summer’s insurance. It routinely makes those checks now.
In a brief conversation with The Bee, Summer said he continues to work as an actuary in California but declined to say where.
Eureka City Manager Dave Tyson won’t be getting off so easy.
A court ruling dismissing Tyson from a major harassment lawsuit against him and the city has been appealed by attorneys for former EPD dispatcher Tawnie Hansen. The appeal was filed Thursday.
Humboldt County Superior Court judge John Feeney dismissed Tyson from personal liability in the case in January, but cleared the way for Hansen’s case to proceed against the city.
The lawsuit is based on an anonymous blog allegedly run from inside the Eureka Police Dept. that peddled salacious gossip about an alleged affair between Hansen and Police Chief Garr Nielsen. Both have denied the rumors.
Hansen alleges that Tyson failed to prevent the workplace harassment by pursuing an over-broad “global investigation” that effectively buried her complaints, and that Tyson aided and abetted the harassment. She is seeking $1.4 million in damages.
An earlier lawsuit was settled when another former dispatcher, DeeDee Wilson, agreed to pay Hansen $10,000 following allegations of libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John Feeney agreed on Tuesday to bar the media from the depositions of city employees and officials being questioned in a harassment case against the city of Eureka.
Attorneys representing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have asked an appellate court to block the order that ended “Furlough Fridays” for tens of thousands of state workers, but leaves others taking off three unpaid days each month.
The governor’s move came just four days before the government is scheduled to shut down again. The court will probably act quickly, legal experts said, given that informal deadline.
But some state workers, who just a week ago were celebrating a furlough lawsuit win that they hoped would return regular schedules and full pay to at least some colleagues, were feeling whipsawed by the governor’s latest move.
“People were happy,” said Renee Lee, an activist with Service Employees International Union Local 1000. “Now they’re mad again. They want this to end. People just want to get on with their lives.”
The uncertainty also comes as state workers and their families are trying to plan for a holiday weekend. State offices are closed Wednesday for Cesar Chavez Day, and many workers made Easter weekend plans thinking Friday was a furlough day. Until the judge rules, they won’t know for sure.
The governor’s appeal seeks to delay Alameda County Judge Frank Roesch’s order to end furloughs for employees in about 70 departments that get a significant slice of their budgets from sources outside the state’s deficit-ridden general fund. Those departments employ roughly a third of the 200,000 employees on furlough.
Roesch agreed to postpone his ruling ordering back pay for the furlough days until Schwarzenegger’s appeal can be heard. But he refused to postpone the order on furloughs themselves, saying state employees should head back to work while lawyers fight it out in the appellate court.
Now Schwarzenegger has appealed that decision.
Roesch’s decision threatens to irreparably damage the government and “has created confusion and disparity,” Schwarzenegger’s lawyers said in Monday’s court filings.
“For example, if (Roesch’s) rulings and judgment are not stayed, the state will be faced with a situation in which state employees performing like work will or will not be furloughed depending upon the funding source,” the governor’s lawyers argued. That breaks with the concept of equal pay for equal jobs in state civil service.
When presented with that argument in Roesch’s courtroom last year, the unions successfully argued that state law requires the governor to take into account things like a department’s funding source before furloughing workers.
The law, union attorney Adam Zapala said at the time, “requires the government to use a scalpel” and perform “an individualized analysis” of department needs when cutting employee hours.
That wasn’t done, the unions said, so the furloughs are irrational.
Look for the appellate court to move quickly on Schwarzenegger’s request, said Sacramento attorney Wendy York.
“The more significant the legal issues, the more attention these cases receive from the appellate courts,” York said.
A deadline seems to help. In January, after Roesch ordered the state to end furloughs for roughly 35,000 correctional officers, Schwarzenegger asked the 1st Distict Court of Appeal to block the mandate while the governor appealed the decision behind it.
The governor’s attorneys filed the petition for writ of supersedeas on Jan. 13. The court granted it on Jan. 15. The two sides are still battling at the appellate level – and correctional officers are still on furlough.
The City of Arcata took the final step in attempting to curb the behavior of panhandlers last Wednesday, March 17 – a step critics call a violation of people’s free speech.
The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is suffering a second loss this month to the California Coastal Commission.
After a blistering defeat three weeks ago, the San Francisco First District Court of Appeal found sea birds have rights when faced with 4th-of-July yahoos. And like the PLF’s recent Balloon Track lawsuit, the argument was over jurisdiction.
From the Press Democrat:
The case pitted those supporting a July 4 pyrotechnic show in Gualala against those trying to protect sea birds on a island near the Sonoma and Mendocino county line.
The display was halted after two years following complaints that it disturbed sea birds on Gualala Point Island. A study in 2007 indicated sea birds fled their nests at about the time of the fireworks show.
The Coastal Commission said the Gualala Festivals Committee would need to apply for a coastal permit to continue the show. To obtain a permit, the group would need to demonstrate it could avoid upsetting the birds.
Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation sued the commission on behalf of fireworks supporters, contending the commission does not have jurisdiction over fireworks.
Complaints followed the first fireworks show in 2006 when birds fled Gualala Point Island. The island is protected by the federal Bureau of Land Management and part of the California Coastal National Monument Program.
In Eureka, PLF sued the Coastal Commission over the Balloon Track last month, claiming the state agency doesn’t have jurisdiction over any half-baked “clean-up” plans for the contaminated property.
The Citizens for Real Economic Growth are held a press conference this afternoon about what they call “stonewalling” by Security National/CUE VI to provide information to the California Costal Commission regarding the Balloon Track.
KHUM interviewed Neal Latt of CREG this morning, followed by Randy Gans of Security National.
Below is the CREG press release for the press conference:
Citizens for Real Economic Growth (CREG) was founded in 2005 as an grassroots educational endeavor to hold Union Pacific Railroad, then-owner of the Balloon Track property in Eureka, accountable for its legacy of intensive pollution of the property, and to advocate for an open process to determine the highest, best use of the site and then to help Eureka to proceed with that development.
Since that time, much has transpired in regard to the property. What has not changed is its condition: stagnation. The legal stage has evolved to the point at which certain information has been requested by the California Coastal Commission from the developer (CUE VI, a subsidiary of Security National), in order to proceed with the cleanup permit.
This information has not been yet been provided, and does not, to the best of our observations, appear to be forthcoming.
Today we call upon CUE VI and Security National to immediately provide the information requested of it by the Coastal Commission, so that a hearing on the cleanup permit may be held at the earliest possible time. Without this information, the Commission cannot make a decision, and the effort to achieve a cleanup of the Balloon Track cannot move ahead. When Security National bought the property in 2006, they knowingly and willingly assumed liability for doing the cleanup that Union Pacific and its predecessors had successfully avoided for decades. They made the purchase knowing that any proposed cleanup would have to comply with the Coastal Act – and importantly, they promised us they would do it.
Today we also call upon Virginia Bass and Jeff Leonard, and the alleged independent group “Citizens for a Better Eureka” to join us in demanding that CUE VI and Security National provide the information requested of it, so that the cleanup of the property may finally move forward. It is in no one’s interest for Security National to continue to withhold the necessary information and delay the process. Ms. Bass and Mr. Leonard, along with Frank Jager and Mike Jones, demanded a quick hearing by the Coastal Commission of the permit application in a press conference in this same location last December. If they are sincere in their expressed desire, they will join us to demand that the developer provide this necessary information to the Coastal Commission in the most expeditious manner possible.
Some of this requested information includes:
1) An Alternatives Analysis, to make the necessary findings that the proposed wetlands fill by the developer to control hazardous materials-entrained stormwater runoff on the site is the least environmentally damaging feasible alternative. This was requested because the Coastal Commission found that the City of Eureka’s approved Environmental Impact Report (EIR) “. . . provide(d) no substantive analysis of project alternatives that address other feasible options to the grading and filling of nearly 2/3 of the roughly 40-acre site that would achieve the same water quality objectives.”
2) A Hazardous Materials Contamination Assessment, which would provide “full characterization of the presence and extent of constituents of concern prior to approval of the Clark Slough wetland reserve component of the project.” As proposed by the developer, this component would entail extensive ground disturbance and “. . . the unearthing of heretofore subsurface material in an area that has been generally documented as contaminated with elevated levels of petroleum distillates, metals and polychlorinated dibenzo-dioxins and furans, and could result in exposing the aquatic resources within the slough and, in turn, Humboldt Bay, to toxics which could have deleterious impacts on the biological productivity of water quality of areas and species of special biological or economic significance . . .”
3) Property Interest Information. Questions have been raised in regard to the location of the boundaries between public and private ownership at the site, and whether portions of the site may be subject to public trust review by the State Lands Commission. To the best of our knowledge, CUE VI and Security National have not, as of yet, provided the requested information to the Commission, in regard to:
a) when the property was acquired, and from whom;
b) the purchase price;
c) a copy of any title report, litigation guarantee or similar document that might have been prepared in connection with all or a portion of the property;
d) the historic chain of title for all property, both on and adjacent to the site, held by the landowner in common contiguous ownership;
e) information to establish lot legality for all APNs both on and adjacent to the site, held by the landowner in common contiguous ownership;
f) the location of all wetlands located on site, as well as the location of all areas of soil and groundwater contamination.
In conclusion, the Balloon Track isn’t getting any cleaner. The dry season when the work might be performed is nearly upon us. We assert that it is hypocritical for CUE VI and Security National to complain about the Coastal Commission asserting jurisdiction over a permit that they themselves sought in the first place. By the same measure, the frivolous lawsuit brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation in this regard is (at best) a waste of time, and appears to be a mechanism for stalling further scrutiny by the Coastal Commission of a flawed and deficient EIR. It further delays the cleanup that all of our community clearly wants to see begun. We, the citizens of Eureka, demand an end to the apparent stonewalling of the Commission’s request for information from the project applicant. The Balloon Track, Humboldt Bay, and we, the citizens of Eureka cannot wait any longer for this cleanup to proceed.
Thank you for your time today.
The Times-Standard isn’t just reporting the news these days. Eureka’s daily paper has become the news.
The City of Eureka moved for a protective order in January to stop T-S reporter Thadeus Greenson from attending depositions of city officials in a harassment case filed by former city employee Tawnie Hansen. The T-S and Hansen oppose the protective order.
“As with any civil case, there is a significant chance this case will never see a courtroom trial, and there is also a significant chance the city will opt to settle out of court,” wrote Greenson in a Declaration filed with the court last week. “If this were to happen, the citizens of Eureka would wind up spending their tax dollars on the defense of this action and/or a settlement without ever having the benefit of knowing exactly why those dollars were spent.”
The T-S and Greenson are represented by Holme Roberts & Owen of San Francisco.
“At its heart, this case is about the appropriation of thousands of dollars of public funds, the ability of Eureka’s government to protect its own citizens from harassment and the conduct of the city’s elected officials and department heads while acting in an official capacity,” Greenson wrote. “It is the position of the Times-Standard, and my personal opinion, that the citizens of Eureka have a right to know how their tax dollars are spent, and to know how their government functions, even surrounding uncomfortable issues.”
The First Amendment Coalition also filed a brief in opposition to the protective order. The non-profit noted the jury pool in Humboldt County is four times the circulation of the T-S. “Given this fact, it is clear twelve unbiased jurors can be found to hear this case,” wrote FAC.
A hearing on the proposed protective order will be held at 8:45 am on March 30th at the Humboldt County courthouse.
On March 3, the Arcata City Council introduced a two-part panhandling ordinance.
The first part makes it unlawful for any person to “panhandle in an aggressive manner in any public place.”
Aggressive panhandling is most often a form of assault, which is already illegal, but although unnecessary, there is no serious legal problem with this section.
Oh and Bon Bon–a quick thought, if we may: When conducting super-stealthy push polls, it’s generally a good idea to avoid polling members of the opposition’s campaign team.
KIEM-TV -With the battle between bidders for the Jefferson school property heating up, College of the Redwoods pulls out its offer. The City of Eureka wrote a letter to the College and Eureka City Schools saying they might have to face a lawsuit if they go ahead with this deal.
THE COAST NEEDS YOUR HELP
The Coast is under attack and this time, if the proposal to require the Coastal Commission to pay for all legal services previously supplied by the Attorney General is approved, it will leave the Commission with very limited ability to defend itself in a lawsuit or enforce the Coastal Act.
Local fans of the Pacific Legal Foundation are silent on the group’s recent loss to the California Coastal Commission.
Today the Friends of the Eel River (FOER) brought legal action before the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board), in an attempt to stop Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), from destroying two northern California rivers essential to the restoration of California’s once-vibrant billion dollar salmon industry.
The FOER legal action challenges the diversion of almost all of the flow of the Eel River to PG&E’s Potter Valley hydroelectric project (PVP), consisting of two dams and a diversion tunnel. During the dry season, almost 98% of the Eel River flows are diverted into the Russian River. “The State Board has an obligation to ensure that PG&E’s use of water is reasonable and does not harm public trust resources in the Eel River,” noted environmental attorney Ellison Folk, with the law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger. PG&E’s Potter Valley Project, however, is damaging the public trust resources by threatening the survival of the remaining populations of the state and federally listed endangered salmon and steelhead, in exchange for a negligible amount of energy it produces.
The action is a result of studies by many of the leading salmon and freshwater experts, including the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), whose data shows that PG&E’s water management system, is drying up the Eel River and over watering the Russian River. Both are lethal to California’s once teeming populations of Coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead. For millennia these fish spawned in freshwaters of the Eel and the Russian Rivers, regenerating their populations so vital to the survival of a healthy ecosystem and to local economies.
FOER was perplexed about why PG&E, an institution that has done good things for the environment, would act in ways so destructive of these rivers and their salmon. “If PG&E ran this project for the benefit of the salmon, they would have to release so much water to the Eel River, that the project would not be economic,” said fisheries biologist, Pat Higgins.
After further investigation, FOER concluded that it wasn’t the energy, but the water. PG&E’s PVP is a water delivery system in the guise of a power plant. Eel river water is moved across watersheds and counties, which creates financial and development opportunities for PG&E, agriculture, and municipal water users. This comes at the expense of endangered species.
Experts state that the amount of energy that PG&E obtains from the Eel River diversions provides, at peak, only 9.4 Megawatts— about the equivalent of four large windmills.
The small amount of energy provided by the dam comes at a high biological and cultural cost, to native species, First Americans (Tribes), and the California public at large.
“We are watching these rivers die needlessly, “said Bill Reynolds, landowner and farmer. “The Eel River is my lifeblood and that of all the riverside economies within its 3,684 square miles, including sport and commercial fishing. It is also the lifeblood of the profound wildlife that feeds on the returning salmon, carrying important ocean nutrients deep into the watershed.” He continued, “With the demise of the salmon will be the loss of one of the largest watershed ecosystems in the State of California. We need to restore the health of the Eel River and Russian River and bring their salmon back.”
Once these rivers supported a rich Alaska-like concentration of wildlife – grizzly bear, wolves, eagles, redwood forests – cycling nutrients back and forth, from ocean to mountain.
There were over 500,000 salmon in the Eel River Basin before the operation of PG&E’s PVP hydroelectric operations. Last year’s count came in at fewer than 500. And on the Russian River, the threat to endangered salmon and steelhead is equally dire. During the peak spawning months, the diversion of Eel River water into the Russian River creates flows that have been too high for fish in critical reaches of the Russian River; flows which must be reduced by a mandate of NMFS’ Russian River Biological Opinion 2008.
The Eel River is the third largest producer of salmon, and second largest producer of steelhead in the state. It contributed to what was a billion dollar a year salmon industry in California that is now moribund due to mismanagement of water resources. The Eel River was considered a world-class fishery, but now sports fishing and its economic contribution to the region is virtually nonexistent.
Historically the Eel River fishery also once sustained the First American people on the Eel River, as well as along the North Coast, from Eureka to Bodega Bay.
“It’s not too late,” said Nadananda, Executive Director of FOER. “But we must act quickly as the fish are on the verge of total collapse. We would like to work with PG&E and SWRCB to restore this extraordinary jewel of the public trust.”
Given the enormous benefits of restoring the Eel River’s fisheries, economic, scenic, and recreation values, there are relatively small costs for doing so. FOER challenges the State Water Resource Board (SWRCB) to eliminate PG&E’s current water rights for the PVP to protect public trust resources on the Eel River, and prevent unreasonable use of water. This Petition could be granted on its own and in conjunction with the SWRCB’s reconsideration of operations at Lake Mendocino and flows of the Russian River.
The decline of California salmon can be viewed as dominos falling. The Eel River salmon were the first to fall, then the Klamath/Trinity River and now the Sacramento/San Joaquin. All are caused by a combination of dams, diversions and watershed mismanagement. Restoration of the Eel River’s endangered salmon species would restore a fishery whose potential economic value exceeds $50 million annually and thousands of jobs – and stop the freefall of one of California’s largest and richest river systems.
About Friends of the Eel River
Friends of the Eel River (FOER), was founded in 1994 and has been acknowledged and praised for its devotion to the monitoring, defense and advocacy of the Eel River watershed. Through the education and support of residents, businesses and visitors in this third largest watershed in California, FOER has become a formidable challenger of large corporations and public agencies in the interest of preserving California’s North Coast public trust resources. FOER is supported by over 2500 members, a solid volunteer base, a large contingent of scientists and fisheries experts, sport fishing alliances, river enthusiasts, and concerned citizens who are working together to meet the challenges to the Eel River’s watershed integrity.
In addition to many legal interventions and victories on behalf of the Eel River, FOER has allied with advocates of the Russian River watershed to address the damages caused by the Eel River’s diversion to the Russian River; specifically the high flows that are threatening the State and federally listed Russian River’s endangered species of salmon and steelhead. Through this alliance, Friends of the Eel highlights the need for bioregions to work together for the benefit of watershed integrity. Healthy forests, soils, fish, wildlife, air, and rivers are all of our concern and legacy. For more information visit http://www.eelriver.org
Additional information about the FOER legal action before the State Water Resources Board, including the legal petition, protest, and exhibits, can be found at: http://www.eelriver.org/news_updates.php