At its next meting, the Santa Ana city council will vote on Item 29A which is the approval of legal fees to be paid to the law firm of Richards Watson and Gershon to defend the city’s position on Measure D term limits in a lawsuit brought by city commissioner Max Madrid and eventually signed on by Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez. The dollar amount, in relative terms, is small — $11,545 and change. But add to the nearly $9,000 the city spent to get a preliminary ruling that Alvarez was in fact ineligible to seek a fourth term and the total is more than $20,000 to nearly $25,000 according to one City Hall insider.
While Madrid’s suit called for the city to pay his legal fees in the event he prevailed, because the lawsuit was filed in good faith to resolve a legal question about whether Measure D reset to zero in 2008, the city cannot seek reimbursement of its legal fees against the plantiff.
TheLiberalOC learned that some members of the council had considered placing an item on the agenda that would have stripped Alvarez of her Mayor Pro Tem title and committee appointments as she enters the final three months of her final term, but enough members got cold feet that the item was not placed on the agenda. Former city commissioner Tish Leon has called on the council to have Madrid removed from his city commission as a punishment for bringing the lawsuit against the city when those thousands of dollars could have been spent elsewhere.
Leon sent a letter to the city council members prior to this week’s meeting:
I have spoken to a couple of you regarding the law suit that Max Madrid brought against the city, on the behalf of Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez.
I just learned that this law suit cost the taxpayers of Santa Ana over $20,000!!
This money could have gone to improve the condition of our parks, recently I attended an event at Jerome Park and the condition of the grass was an embarrassment. I attached a couple of pictures.
Max Madrid is a Commissioner for Parks & Rec, so not only did he sue the city, but he demanded that the city pay all costs.
In my eyes, he stole this $20,000, from the community he is supposed to represent. A Commissioner of Parks & Rec should be finding solutions to fixing our parks, not suing the city on the behalf of a friend.
I am asking that you place an 85A, B, C or D if necessary to remove him from his commission.
I know his term will end in November, however you have already set precedence by removing commissioners for suing the city. Why are you not acting on this??
You all say you want what is best for Santa Ana, well then prove it by removing Max Madrid from The Board of Recreation & Parks!
So Santa Ana taxpayers should add this $20,000 to the thousands spent by the city to cover the costs of last fall’s community forum on tolerence between the county’s Jewish and Latino community in the wake of Alvarez’s anti-semetic remarks made against Jewish business owner Irv Chase during a heated debate about PBID and Downtown Inc. in August 2011. Alvarez equated Downtown Inc.’s favorable rents to getting a”great deal from Hitler.” After nearly two weeks of non-apologies, misstatements, and self-inflicted wounds, Alvarez faced an attempt to have her stripped of her mayor pro tem status and her committee appointments. This was overturned by a substitute motion and Alvarez herself cast the deciding vote on her punishment which was no more than a slap on the wrist which had the result of exposing Santa Ana’s ethics ordinance as having no teeth at all when it comes to enforcement.
The by-invitation only community tolerance forum held last Fall was “a private event” that then acting city manager Paul Walters said didn’t cost the city a dime when in fact the city paid for everything except lunch and the table linens. The event itself was a de facto taxpayer-funded campaign event for Alvarez who is now seeking a seat on the Rancho Santiago Board. Councilman Vince Sarmiento, who came up with the idea for the forum, admitted that the event as held was not what he envisioned when he proposed it.
Since Alvarez seems to have no trouble having taxpayers pick up the tab for her political mistakes, imagine what must be going through the minds of those in leadership positions with the Rancho Santiago Community College Board. Community college budgets are being squeezed more tightly every passing week. Alvarez is running against two RSCCDB incumbents in Mark McLoughlin and Dave Chappel — both of whom have significantly more experience in guiding the successful operation of a community college district board than Alvarez who is seat-shopping for a place to land until the 2014 elections. How much could she cost the district in unnecessary expenses?
For the Santa Ana city council, a precedent already exists for “firing” city commissioners who enter into litigation with the city. in 2010, Commissioner Jeff Dickman was dumped for being part of a coalition that sued the city in order to save some historic structures from destruction. If Dickman was tossed for suing the city, shouldn’t the same logic be used to dump Madrid? Alvarez would fight to protect her commissioner and Pulido would join her. Madrid would likely get support from Tinajero who is on Alvarez’s Rancho Santiago board committee. But if Sarmiento holds firm and Bustamante shows up for a vote, the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem could be on the wrong side of a 4-3 vote. The question remains if the council will even address this.
The big question many are asking is: who is paying Madrid’s legal bills?