Here are the FACTS that “manager” Huff and the city council didn’t want to release about the HORRIFIC amount of money they spent on a Clean Water Act lawsuit – a lawsuit they should have begged to settle the minute the two month “Notice of Intent” to sue letter was issued in early 2014. Note in the linked story above that Huff refuses to tell the Pioneer the cost and that a pubic information request had to be filed for the truth to come out (and even with a public information request El Hefe Huff tries to pretend in the below posted response that the cost is not public information – Huff pretends he is providing something he doesn’t legally have to provide. He’d better take a close look at Oregon’s public records laws – he and the council spent PUBLIC MONEY so the PUBLIC needs to know how their money was spent!).
The taxpayers of Molalla should be OUTRAGED at the money the city wasted on lawyers! Molalla has a long history of dragging out grudge matches it can’t win – the march to insolvency pushing the ridiculous “urban reserve” quest was the same kind of fiasco. When greedy lawyers get their hooks into Molalla’s “leaders” the lawyers end up rich, Molalla ends up LOSING, the taxpayers foot the bills and the struggles with insolvency continue. Hold your breath, here’s what Huff and the city council DUMPED on a losing case, click on the document if you want to be really depressed:
You have to get a kick out of Huff’s resentment about the need to provide “voluminous” amounts of documents. Any competent city would have all the needed documents at their fingertips. Not so Molalla, it is like pulling teeth to get information out of city hall, in part it seems because the records are not properly kept and in part because there is nothing right wing Molalla hates more than public transparency. El Hefe Huff didn’t get his nickname for nothing!
FACT: Crag law never received settlement offers from the city after the case was filed. No matter what kind of spin or censorship Huff wants to try, he has to provide proof and he has none. The reason Molalla’s fees were so high was that, instead of admitting their waste water practices were in violation and were likely to violate in the future and immediately trying for a settlement, they allowed an expensive law firm to egg them on. They actually flew in lawyers from Pittsburg and Florida at the city’s (read taxpayer’s!) expense.
Here’s the email exchange where BCR’s lawyer offered to start settlement in early 2014, an email exchange Huff either “forgot” or that the very expensive Ring Bender lawyer “forgot” to tell the city about. It clearly states BCR was open to settlement talks:
Why did the city spend months flying in lawyers (the lead lawyer for the city was based in Pa!) to drag out a case that could have had early settlement? For that matter, why did Molalla not use strictly Oregon based lawyers – talk about throwing money away on plane fares! That was crazy!
Why did the city spend so much (an amount so huge that an experienced environmental lawyer plans to use it as an example in future Clean Water Act lawsuits to show cities why it is in their best interest to quickly settle!) if they were not in violation? The settlement isn’t any “win” for the city, it binds them to terms and conditions that they must comply with for the next 3 ½ years.
The irony is that the exact day in May that a settlement had finally been proposed and Bear Creek Recovery was ready to approve it, Molalla made its tardy announcement about the raw sewage spill into Bear Creek. If anything proved the need for a lawsuit and that Molalla was likely to continue to violate without extra scrutiny, it was that spill.
What city “professionals” in their right minds would be on the verge of settling a hugely expensive (to them) Clean Water Act lawsuit and fail to report the WHOLE TRUTH about a raw sewage spill into a creek in the mandated 24 hours?
Molalla’s spin doctor Huff and the pathetic city council want to pretend they are victims. They have been working hard to try to censor and morph the truth! But the FACT is that their “professionals” at the waste water plant lied when they ONLY reported to DEQ in the first 24 hours that a spill had happened but was contained in the plant! I would guess that as the week wore on after the Sunday/Monday spill, the “professionals” might have finally realized that far too many people knew the truth so they finally gave up and confessed to DEQ and to the lawyers on Friday? Or maybe they were so eager to hide the full extent of the spill and thus waited days to admit the truth so DEQ could not adequately investigate how much sewage really got into Bear Creek? We will never know how much contamination occurred. It was also telling that it took a complaint to DEQ 10 days after the spill to finally force Molalla to tell the local rural well users near the creek that the spill had occurred and that they could have their wells tested at the city’s expense.
No matter what, the spill and the failure to report on time delayed the settlement since the new, serious VIOLATION meant that more terms had to be added to ensure Molalla would follow the Clean Water Act to the letter of the law in the future. The settlement, which provides excellent transparency for the next 3 ½ years, will allow the public to monitor all reports that Molalla generates regarding its wastewater practices. Any violations will force the city to pay a $500/day penalty into an escrow account designated for use to fix its infrastructure problems.
The second irony of this case is that FACT that the very week the settlement was reached – a settlement with many terms and conditions Molalla must abide by to avoid violation fines – was the very week that DEQ announced it had investigated the May sewage spill/ tardy report and was fining Molalla $4,350. Note that the press release from DEQ has a formula that establishes the Civil Penalty and “M” is most telling in the document because it discusses the multiple failures at the wastewater plant to have adequate staff and monitoring in place. Note that the violations outlined are Class I, considered the worse level of violation:
And here’s DEQ letter to the City in June, spelling out the violations that were to be investigated. Note the city FAILED to tell the truth about the spill – it lied by omission by not disclosing the release of sewage into a body of water.
So what’s the moral of this sad story and this gigantic waste of public money? I’d say the moral is that Molalla “leader” and “professionals” better wake up and smell the need for transparency and honesty. But I would not hold my breath. Given the coming outline of Molalla’s abject failures to follow the letter of the ORS rules on public planning hearings, it is pretty obvious that Decayville Molalla still is in total denial about the need to play by the rules.
If I were unfortunate enough to have to pay taxes to support pathetic Molalla, I would be out beating the bushes to find new city councilors and a new mayor next election. I would be demanding to know who lied when and who knew what about the sewer spill. I’d demand to know why the city didn’t quickly beg for a settlement in the Clean Water Act lawsuit (those kinds of lawsuits don’t get filed unless it is pretty much a slam dunk case) and why, instead, the city continued to approve massively growing legal bills for a case they NEVER COULD HAVE WON!
Ethical, competent lawyers work hard from the outset to mitigate loss for clients but it seems Molalla’s “leaders” and “professionals” love to hire lawyers who are most interested in egging the city on so the legal fees grow. It’s pretty telling the city’s lawyers, both in the failed land use urban reserve fiasco and in this lawsuit, got paid through the nose in spite of LOSING!