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Twentynine Palms is cued up right behind Moreno Valley for Sacramento Superior Court Presiding Judge Kenny to denied 29 Palms outsiders and insiders their way with public funds in an errant and shady mismanagement of taxpayers funds. It’s an illegal attempt to circumvent California law, California court decisions, and no less than nine (9) Department of Finance letters-decisions admonishing the town council, A. Patrick Munoz of Rutan & Tucker, and RGS Consultant Matt McCleary. After which, McCleary submitted his resigned as Community Development Director effective March 2014.
Simular issues in Moreno Valley and 29 Palms: Seems the Moreno Successor Agency failed to handle redevelopment obligations after the state Legislature did away with redevelopment agencies in 2012; among the problems the judge cited: The city waited too long to take legal action and didn’t have legal standing to sue because it is a member of the JPA. People, does this sound familiar?
Councilwoman Victoria Baca said Monday that “the ruling was unfortunate”. This is a good line for the 29 Palms City Council to adapt when Judge Kenny Minute Order is made public.
Note that the 29 Palms City Council continues to spend the 22% in property tax money it receives from the county intended for public safety — on sign, more signs, sheep sculptures, iron signs, roll-out signs, and an Golden Arch over the city that tanked because of public embarrassment and weary taxpayer’s disapproval.
An uncaring and reckless 29 Palms City Council continue to roll-the-diced with public safety — even nearing the grand opening of the Tortoise Rock Casino — by refusing to fund the TPFD — leaving businesses, residents, schools, over 30 churches, and hotels and motels with “an inadequate fire department.”
Judge Shelleyanne Chang on Monday, Feb. 10, issued a final ruling rejecting the city’s lawsuit against the March Joint Powers Authority, which manages former military land around the base.
Moreno Valley contended that March JPA agreements with medical campus developer Don Ecker were invalid. Those agreements gave Ecker more time to start building the 144-acre health complex known as March LifeCare in exchange for payments of more than $800,000.
“We are thrilled the ruling is behind us,” Ecker said Monday.
Ecker said his March Healthcare Development company has invested about $20 million in the project. Now, with the litigation resolved, several transactions can go forward, he said. The nature of those transactions is confidential, he said.
Moreno Valley City Council members voted last April to file the lawsuit.
If the JPA had made mistakes, the deals giving Ecker more time might not have been valid, he said.
Moreno Valley is one of the local governments that is part of the JPA. Among other issues, the judge was critical of the city for suing an agency in which it holds a stake.
In hindsight, the city should have tried a different approach, such as persuading the JPA board to jointly seek a court ruling to clarify the matter, rather that filing a lawsuit, Stewart said.
“A scorched-earth approach doesn’t always work,” Stewart said.
Chang’s ruling in Sacramento County Superior Court confirmed her tentative ruling last month.
Among the problems she cited: The city waited too long to take legal action and didn’t have legal standing to sue because it is a member of the JPA.
She further rapped the city for going to court rather than working out its differences with other members of the JPA.
Mayor Tom Owings said it will be up to the City Council whether to appeal the ruling. In any case, the city will continue to work toward its larger strategy to dismantle the JPA, he said. “We’re not going to take our ball and go home.”
The mayor contends that LifeCare’s payments to the JPA and plans for Ecker to buy JPA-owned properties are helping to keep the agency afloat. Moreno Valley stands to gain as much $2 million a year in tax revenue if the JPA is disbands and its jurisdiction reverts to members, which also include Riverside, Perris and Riverside County, the mayor said.
Moreno Valley Councilwoman Victoria Baca said Monday that the ruling was unfortunate.
“I was hoping for a victory, so we could do away with the JPA, and the city would have more revenue,” she said.
Baca said she didn’t expect the legal action to result in long-term harm to Moreno Valley’s relationship with other members of the JPA.
“We are all grownups,” she said, “and we all look out for the interests of our cities.”
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