SLO tries to parlay its legal losses to CAPSLO

January 23, 2013
John Ashbaugh

John Ashbaugh

The San Luis Obispo City Council is threatening that if the two attorneys who sued for unconstitutional treatment of the homeless do not agree to donate half of the $133,880 award of fees to the San Luis Obispo Community Action Partnership (CAPSLO), the city will appeal the award.

The council voted 4-1 in closed session Tuesday not to appeal San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall’s ruling on the legal fees and to instead offer the amount in full to attorneys Saro Rizzo and Stew Jenkins as as long as they agree to then hand half over to CAPSLO.

Councilman John Ashbaugh, who sits on the CAPSLO Board of Directors, voted in favor of making the deal to help enrich the controversial non-profit. Ashbaugh said he did not hold a conflict of interest on the matter.

“I’m not an employee of CAPSLO,” Ashbaugh said. “In no way am I compensated by them.”

Ashbaugh also said city staff told him he could vote on the payment request.

On the September 27 Dave Congalton show, Ashbaugh said the city would fight against paying the fees requested by Rizzo and Jenkins. Ashbaugh also said he trusts City Attorney Christine Dietrick’s legal advice and that, “She is amazing.”

Mayor Jan Marx, who is the only attorney on the council, cast the dissenting vote against requesting that Rizzo and Jenkins give half of the $133,880 to CAPSLO.

Dietrick announced the vote during her report on closed session at Tuesday’s council meeting. The council did not need to disclose how it voted in closed session, but Dietrick said the council chose to do so on the matter of the legal fees.

If Rizzo and Jenkins reject the offer, the city can still appeal the fees. Doing so would risk costing taxpayers more money since Rizzo and Jenkins could ask for more in fees if the appellate court upholds the trial court’s ruling.

Jenkins said Dietrick has yet to contact him on how the city plans to proceed with the ruling on the fees.


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Why not donate to a worthy organzination instead one controlled by another special friend of a poltician?

Why condition the payment to donate at all? The lawsuit was won fair and square.

Agreed, and instead of the taxpayers having to fund any response from the city to it’s blackmail attempt, make those that make the decision responsible, both with their positions and their own money.

If they did that, nobody would want to serve on the city council. Hey, maybe that’s an idea.

Under the facts and circumstances of this SLO city council’s proposal, it was a joke, correct?

If it wasn’t, then the only thing that was truly missing from Tuesday’s council meeting was Allen Funt running in and saying that everyone was on “Candid Camera!”

“Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”

“Ashbaugh also said city staff told him he could vote on the payment request.” Is this advice from the same attorney who advised the City to go to fight this in Court and then lost the case? I thought extortion was against the law? Typical politian logic!

So. to close: Mr. Ashbaugh is willing to have his employer, the taxpayers of San uis Obispo, pay $133,880 for a case the City’s “amazing” Attorney Dietrick lost, and who is now giving him advice saying it is OK to extort half this money from Rizzo and Jenkins for CAPSLO, in which Mr. Ashbaugh sits on its Board, or he threatens to have the City appeal the Court’s decision by this “amazing” City Attorney. Seems to me that only Jan Marx, also an attorney in the real world, has the common sense to vote no and that is very surprising but certainly the right way to vote.

Excellent post, thanks!

The City execs are looking more and more like clowns.

How about we float this idea to the Katy Ligdic, the city attorney Dietrick, and the City Council … Each of you also agree to donate half of your annual compensation to CAPSLO.

Maybe that would help relieve the public of the growing sentiment that you are increasingly inept.

Any takers?

The City’s strategy is wrong and potentially illegal. It would be absurd to base the decision to appeal a fee award on whether the attorneys would donate some of their earnings. If fees were wrongly awarded and then the City has a good chance of getting a reversal on appeal, then the City must appeal. To do otherwise would arguably amount to a gift of public funds. If there are no grounds for appeal, then the attempt to extort money out of these public interest lawyers is, as some have suggested, blackmail. I have read Judge Crandall’s ruling and in my humble opinion, there is virtually no chance that the award would be reversed. At some point, the City must stop turning bad into worse and admit that they mishandled this whole affair from the get go. Please, stop following one bad decision with another.

Wait no conflict of interest? SO WHAT you don’t get compensated, you are sitting on their board which you can better help, like this instance, get them more funding by twisting arms, so YES spin like you want it is a conflict of interest. For the love of GOD does any politicians have any souls? Retorical question.

Politicians think that as long as something isn’t specific in writting then everything is o.k. They should go back to Civics class and be reminded of a little thing that was taught. Letter of the law and spirit of the law.

Ashbaugh is myopic. It is absolutely a conflict of interest.

It is a conflict of interest in his position as a SLO City Council member. He is not looking out for his constituents by allowing this blackmail to proceed.

Oh, this is the typical institutional game of trying to ‘punish’ attorneys for taking certain cases. If a real client is involved sometimes big gov tries to cut a separate deal with the client the cuts the attorneys out.

Frankly, those fees look a little large in my eyes and as a matter of taste the attorneys should donate some to the nonprofit … after all, it’s not like the lawyers are doing this pro bono.

The lawyers (Jenkins & Rizzo) did this “pro bono”. They did not charge their clients, taking a huge risk should they have lost.

They spent their time and their own money filing the case, all along, telling the City they would be entitled to legal fees if they won. So, it’s the City that has failed the community. The city knew the their risk, they took it and LOST! They could have settled early on, reversed their course, but no, they steamrolled ahead. They even went so far as to revisit the issue after the court spanked them. BAD ADVICE from the City attorney, who by the way, gets paid no matter what.

What Jenkins & Rizzo do with the money; pay their staff’s, themselves a fair wage (I’m sure they are getting less than they put into it), reimburse themselves for filing fess, etc., is not the business of the city!

The city conditioning the payment (the court will find that very amusing) is extortion!

Ashblah is wrong! He has conflict of interest! Being on the board of the very organization that would “benefit” from such extortion is a clear conflict.

BW, You took the words right out of my mouth.

Black mail anyone?

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