Court Rules For City, Against Morningside

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On May 9, Orange County Superior Court Judge Sheila Fell issued a Minute Order ruling in favor of the City of Newport Beach and against Morningside Recovery, LLC, in a lawsuit centering around Morningside’s compliance with the law.

Morningside operates a number of facilities within Newport Beach and Costa Mesa for people with drug and alcohol dependencies, and is currently under investigation by the state of California.

The court found Morningside is not operating its facilities as a single housekeeping unit and is therefore in violation of the city’s municipal code.

“We are pleased that the Court has agreed with the City’s position,” Mayor Keith Curry said. “Clearly, Morningside has been operating facilities in violation of our laws. We will be submitting a proposed judgment to enjoin Morningside from continuing to violate the provisions of the municipal code and to cease operations that are in violation.”

According to City Attorney Aaron Harp, “the city will be moving forward to submit the proposed judgment within the next few days.”

On Sept. 28, 2010, the city council adopted ordinance 2010-18, approving an agreement that authorized Morningside to operate residential care facilities in Newport Beach.

The agreement included operational conditions intended to minimize impacts and protect the public health, safety and welfare of the residential neighborhoods in which the residential care facilities were located.

The city and Morningside were required to conduct a periodic compliance review of the agreement at least once every 12 months.

During the June 2011 compliance review, city staff identified a high number of alleged violations of the operational conditions of the agreement at each of the Morningside’s facilities, as well as separate alleged violations of the Newport Beach municipal code.

The alleged violations included exceeding the maximum number of permitted client beds, failing to utilize garages for parking, failing to submit quarterly compliance reports, and failing to report the number of parolee/probationer clients at each facility.

The city’s police department also responded to fifteen calls for service at Morningside facilities between late September 2010 and late May 2011. The calls were for such matters as disturbance of the peace, illegal parking, and the playing of loud music.

Based upon these findings, the city council gave Morningside 30 days to resolve the issues and come into compliance.

On July 26, 2011, after a lengthy public hearing to determine whether Morningside had made a good faith effort to come into compliance, the council adopted ordinance 2011-20, revoking the agreement. Morningside then filed a lawsuit seeking to have the court set aside the city council’s decision.

In response to Morningside’s lawsuit, the city filed a cross-complaint against Morningside alleging that Morningside was violating the provisions of the Newport Beach municipal code at its facilities in Newport Beach.

The court’s ruling this week resolves the lawsuit in favor of the city.

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