City Attorney Squanders Another $200,000

By: 
Stephen Downing

On Oct. 8, 2018 the Beachcomber published an article reporting on the Sept. 7, 2018 jury verdict in the case of Thomas Gonzales vs. City of Long Beach in which the jury rejected what Thomas Gonzales’ attorney, Kimberly Lind, described as the city’s retaliatory actions against him for making allegations of police misconduct by awarding $436,000 in past economic damages and $300,000 in emotional distress damages.

The three-week trial was the culmination of a 12-year protracted legal battle in both trial and appellate courts.

At that time the Beachcomber also reported that an agenda item submitted by City Attorney Charles Parkin was buried on the City Council’s Oct. 9 Consent Calendar in which Parkin requested the council to authorize the city manager to execute an amendment to an existing contract with an outside law firm for an additional $200,000, for a total not to exceed $515,000, to facilitate an appeal of the jury’s verdict.

When learning of the city attorney’s request to council, Lind said, “The attorney’s fees being spent to defend will cost the taxpayer close to the verdict itself.”

At the beginning of that Oct. 9 council meeting a number of community members appeared to protest the city attorney’s request, among them Long Beach resident Jane Hull, who served on the Gonzales jury as Juror #4.

When the Oct. 9 council meeting opened, Vice Mayor Dee Andrews announced that the controversial agenda item had been withdrawn.

What the vice mayor did not say was that the city attorney’s request for additional funds would be re-scheduled for a vote following the Nov. 6 election.

On Nov. 13, a renewed but modified request was placed on the consent calendar by the city attorney for “an additional $200,000 for litigation expenses incurred through trial and post-trial motions.

Those who attended the Oct. 9 meeting to protest the expenditure of taxpayer funds were not informed of the rescheduled request for funds and were therefore not present.

The $200,000 request – including three separate requests by the city attorney for the council to approve a cumulative total of $1,335,000 to pay settlement agreements made in three other lawsuits – was passed by a unanimous 8-0 vote without comment. Councilmember Uranga was absent.

On Jan. 3, the City of Long Beach, represented by the law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Rudd & Romo, presented oral argument before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark C. Kim – as did Thomas Gonzales attorney, Dustin Collier – relating to the city’s motions for a new trial and for judgment notwithstanding verdict. The city’s “JNOV” motion was immediately denied. The judge took the arguments on the city’s motion for new trial under submission.

The next day, Jan. 4, the judge issued his ruling: “Defendant’s motion for new trial is denied as the City of Long Beach did not meet its burden of persuasion.”

Prior to these post-trial motions being made by the city, Gonzales attorney Kimberly Lind (also a Long Beach resident/taxpayer) told the Beachcomber, “The smart move for the city would have been to end this before we file a costs memorandum and an attorney fee motion, which could increase the amount owed by the city to well over a million dollars. “

Following the judge’s finding that the “city did not meet its burden of persuasion” Lind said, “The city attorney will have to fabricate some justification to request more money from the city for appellate work, if the city attorney insists on continuing in this charade to the detriment of the public good.”

The alternative, which would suggest taking some responsibility for its actions, according to Lind, would be to pay the judgment derived from the verdict delivered in good faith by the citizens of Long Beach.

The Beachcomber will update this article when it is determined if the city attorney chooses to ask the City Council for additional funds to pursue what Gonzales’ attorney says is “a long shot” in the Court of Appeals. There, Lind says the amount of the judgment will garner interest at seven percent per annum, increasing the amount owed to Gonzales, again to the detriment of the taxpayer.

Lind said, “Mr. Gonzales has waited 12 years for justice. I’m sure he can wait a little longer for the verdict to be solidified by the Court of Appeal and get a higher rate of return on what he would otherwise receive if the city thinks that’s the best way to spend taxpayer money.”

 

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.

stephen@beachcomber.news

 

 

 

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Comments

Why do we the taxpayers have to pay for their incompetence? The verdict should be paid by the salaries of the sorry city administrators who made the decision to appeal the verdict in the first place. We have lost enough money already. Recall all these incompetent people.

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