Ramifications of Woody’s Lawsuit

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In my last column, I discussed how Woody’s Wharf beat the city of Newport Beach in the appeals court after the city’s illegal conduct.

One of Woody’s owners, Mark Serventi, told me that about the time Woody’s had its planning commission hearing, Newport Beach police cars were stationed outside Woody’s every Friday and Saturday night with their squad car lights flashing and the officers standing in front of Woody’s. He said this occurred from September 2013 through February 2014.

To me, this seems like retaliation and intimidation against Woody’s.

On Feb. 5, David Ellis of Delta Partners in Costa Mesa sent a California Public Records Request Act request to the city of Newport Beach for “Copies of NBPD reports or citations issued to Woody’s Wharf by the NBPD officers occupying the squad cars that were staged in the center island in front of Woody’s Wharf on Friday and Saturday nights with flashing lights starting in September 2013 through February 2014. Additionally, copies of any reports prepared to police management or city staff/city council documenting this deployment of resources.”

In a response letter to David Ellis, the city stated that city staff conducted a review of City records and determined that the following exemptions apply to the request: Attorney-Client Privilege/ Attorney Work-Product, Pending Litigation, City Attorney’s Office Police Records, and Contemporaneous Investigative Records.

The city’s response to the public records request makes them appear to be stonewalling. The public has a right to know why the police showed up for months. Someone had to send them there.

Woody’s asked the court for legal fees and damages. In addition to damages claims, Woody’s sued for civil rights violations under federal law (42 USC 1983).

Woody’s also sued former council member Mike Henn (a councilman t the time of the lawsuit) personally.

The city must now decide whether to appeal the ruling in favor of Woody’s. I believe the council should not appeal. First, the city has spent too much money already hammering Woody’s. A lawsuit like this is probably costing the city six figures. Second, the city has already harmed Woody’s Wharf enough – probably costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I hope that the city does not take the posture that the city has more money than a private business, and that the city would try to use its superior financial resources to leverage Woody’s with endless legal action running up their costs, irrespective of how much wrong-doing the previous city council perpetrated. That would be a continuation of immoral big government at its worst.

Being in charge of government requires doing the right thing because it’s right, rather than maximizing leverage against private citizens with money gained by taxation of those citizens.

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  1. Transparency? In a response letter to David Ellis, the city stated that city staff conducted a review of City records and determined that the following exemptions apply to the request: Attorney-Client Privilege/ Attorney Work-Product, Pending Litigation, City Attorney’s Office Police Records, and Contemporaneous Investigative Records.