It’s a good thing our city council knows so much about chickens, as we learned a few weeks ago, because those birds have now come home to roost.

Yesterday, about 6 p.m., city hall was invaded by process servers who succeeded in serving all council members. The members should not have been startled by the activity. (Former?) City Attorney Ted Schneider had repeatedly warned that reneging on the recent settlement agreement with El Dorado Mobil Home Park would prove to be a bad thing. That agreement was reached after six months of negotiations, which followed the lawsuit filed against the city in 2009. The plaintiff now had reasonable grounds for concluding that Fillmore’s City Council had negotiated in bad faith, wasting much time and money.

The city has spent more than $236,000 defending the suit, which in no way assists the rest of the city, which is nearly bankrupt. On the evening the council was expected to honor that negotiated agreement with the owner of El Dorado, three council members, Brooks, Sipes, and Gonzalez, voted to reject it. They were miffed by the plaintiff’s behavior. Gonzalez “didn’t like the tactics” and was “not going to allow them to bully’...and “money should not stand in the way of doing the right thing.” Brooks was worried about “environmental impacts” and the discourteousness of the plaintiffs.

Sipes was in a tizzy as well, stating “ heart and my conscience will not allow me to approve this.” Sipes’ heart and conscience should have been more closely attached to the city’s wallet.

So, on the night our attorney Schneider and the plaintiff’s attorney had every reason to believe the negotiated agreement would be approved, the rug was pulled out from under them when, in a 3-2 vote, the settlement was rejected. Schneider, again, warned that this rejection would certainly bring another lawsuit upon the city, with great expense, and that (based upon the results of similar state actions) the city had little probability of ultimately winning. Costs could exceed $500,000, and there was no money to pay legal fees.

But these three were swept-up with the emotion of the moment and their votes heartily cheered by the chamber-full of El Dorado residents. They were now heroes to those 50-something residents. The other 14,000 Fillmore residents could go fish.

Mayor Gayle Washburn, displaying her usual vapid leadership, stated “It’s my opinion people have been hurt” (by plaintiff’s lawyers) but faintly voted with Councilman Steve Conaway to approve the long-awaited settlement. She expressed little objection to the vote.

I should mention that Washburn, Brooks, Sipes, and Gonzalez are frantically seeking to replace our city attorney at this very time. Thanks to the typically incompetent efforts of our City Manager Yvonne Quiring, the Requests For Qualifications (for a new law firm) are impossible to evaluate with any certainty because they have come back as a basket of apples, oranges, and bananas. But tonight a choice is expected. The excellent work Ted Schneider has done for the city (especially on the El Dorado and Owens & Minor lawsuits) is being tossed out. Others will have to be educated to take over in midstream. This is a remarkably stupid maneuver by the council majority to finally be rid of every trace of the old city hall staff – they’re all gone now.

The outcome of these lawsuits is extremely important to the city; millions are on the table, and they are complex suits requiring care and cooperation. Ted Schneider should be retained. He deserves to be complemented for his achievements, not disrespected by four rank amateurs.

More next week when I have more time.


One last word. The Boy Scouts of America should be applauded for “emphatically reaffirming its policy of excluding gays”. More on this also next week.