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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

City Legal Costs Soar in Enviro Lawsuits

• $1.1 Million Needed for NRDC and Baykeeper Bills

BY BILL KOENEKER

To defend itself against a lawsuit brought on by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Santa Monica Baykeeper, the City of Malibu anticipates spending over a whopping $1.1 million in legal fees over the next year.
At next week’s city council meeting, members will be asked to pony up $755,000 for legal fees for the skirmish with the two environmental groups.
The city had already set aside $375,000 in its 2011-2012 fiscal year budget.
“In order to cover all previous and future legal and professional services costs associated with the case through trial, it is anticipated that an additional $755,000 will be needed,” wrote Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman, in a report to the council.
In 2008, the NRDC and the Baykeeper filed a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act claiming that the city is responsible for certain exceedances of pollutants in violation of water quality standards in Malibu Creek and in the Area of Special Biological Significance off the coast of western Malibu. It is expected that the case will go to trial in November, 2011, according to city officials.
The city approved an agreement with the law firm Downey-Brand for representation in the case in 2008. In addition to the legal representation provided by the law firm, both the city and the firm have used services associated with the case for environmental legal services and expert witnesses.
“These professional services are a necessary part of the city’s defense. The agreements for the professional legal services are being managed by Downey-Brand on behalf of the city,” added the assistant city manager, in a memo to the council.
Feldman explained, if approved, the $755,000 will have to come from the city’s general fund undesignated reserve. The projected reserve on June 30, 2012 is $9.2 million, according to Feldman, who said if the money is allocated the reserve fund would dip to $8.4 million.
The assistant city manager also noted that should any of the funds not be utilized as the result of an early settlement, those funds would be returned to the general fund reserve at the end of the current fiscal year.

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