Back in October, the North Coast Railroad Authority managed to settle a year-old lawsuit brought by the city of Novato. Novato had alleged that the railroad had violated California's open government law -- the Brown Act -- as well as the California Environmental Quality Act.
Initial rulings had gone Novato's way, but the NCRA got the city to drop the case by agreeing to over a million dollars worth of upgrades, and by paying the city's legal fees. The railroad authority agreed to this despite the fact that it had no money to pay for these things. So it had to raise money -- and the way it went about raising money now looks to earn it a whole brand spanking new Brown Act lawsuit.
Earlier today, three Humboldt County environmental organizations -- the Friends of the Eel, Humboldt Baykeeper, and the Environmental Protection Information Center -- sent the NCRA a letter demanding that the agency reverse its decision to mortgage land in the City of Ukiah to pay off Novato. (We wrote about this in December.) The groups argue that the decision to mortgage the property was not properly noticed, and that therefore concerned citizens -- and the city of Ukiah itself -- had no way of speaking to the matter. Specifically, the agenda for the meeting never mentioned the property in question.
The authority has 30 days to reverse the action before the groups sue.
David Keller, Bay Area Director of Friends of the Eel and a former Petaluma City Councilmember, said today that the NCRA should have known that their decision to press ahead would spell legal consequences.
"They were warned by Caltrans, they were warned by me, they were warned by [the Mendocino County Association of Governments," Keller said. "They ignored it."