Morningside Recovery, LLC, has filed a lawsuit against Newport Beach, claiming the city’s decision to terminate their zoning agreement is invalid due to lack of proper evidence and violation of both California law and the agreement’s terms.
The rehab house operator filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint on Sept. 7, according to court documents.
The suit comes after the City Council voted unanimously July 26 to terminate its zoning agreement with Morningside. The council acted after sending Morningside a warming letter in June about reported violations of the agreement.
The agreement had ended a lawsuit between the city and Morningside over the city’s attempts to regulate Morningside’s operations.
“We felt they were in violation of the zoning agreement,” Councilmember Steve Rosansky said. “I guess they’re not happy with our decision.”
It’s up to a judge now, Rosansky said.
There are a few possible outcomes, he said, including a settlement or Morningside applying for state licenses. If the recovery home operator does apply for the state license, regulating its rehab houses would be out of the city’s hands. That possibility is the downside of terminating the agreement, Rosansky said, but it was a risk councilmembers were willing to take.
“They didn’t really want to cooperate with the city. … It was clear they were being combative and not cooperative,” Rosansky said. “It was clear, to me anyway, that they were not interested in honoring the spirit of the agreement, in addition to the fact that they violated the legal terms of the agreement.”
“Morningside’s challenge to the city council’s decision to terminate the zoning agreement is based upon the fact that the city council’s decision was not based upon substantial evidence and that the requisite findings were not made prior to making its decision,” Morningside Vice President and General Counsel Mary Helen Beatificato wrote in an email.
“By way of this action, Morningside seeks to void all actions by the city of Newport Beach to implement and/or enforce the ordinance terminating the zoning agreement. Should Morningside prevail in this action, the zoning agreement will remain in effect for the next 24 years,” Beatificato wrote.
There were many violations that led to the termination of the agreement, Rosansky said, but in his opinion the most significant violations were the after-hours deliveries to the Lido facility and the disruptions some of the Morningside clients were causing.
In the lawsuit text, Beatificato maintains that Morningside took steps to correct these violations and sent a letter to the city advising them of their actions.
In Morningside’s letter to the city, Beatificato wrote that the rehab home had created written policies communicating the restrictions and regulations and outlining consequences if its staff failed to comply.
“I hope and trust that Morningside is now in compliance with all terms and operational conditions of the zoning agreement and that no further violations and/or administrative citations will be necessary,” Beatificato wrote in the letter to the city, included in the lawsuit documents.
The steps Morningside took weren’t exactly correcting the problems, Rosansky said.
“I think in their minds they were addressing our concerns, but when you keep continuing to violate the agreement … it starts to ring a little hollow,” Rosansky said.