A press conference was held at 1 p.m. outside the Humboldt County Courthouse. A lawsuit was been filed in the Humboldt Superior Court this morning by Leo Sears against Harbor District Commissioner Greg Dale as well as fellow Commissioners Aaron Newman, Mike Wilson, Richard Marks, Pat Higgins, Executive Director Jack Crider and the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District.
The main point of the lawsuit is that the plaintiff, Leo Sears, alleges that "each and every defendant conspired with each of the remaining defendants and that they had common knowledge of and agreed to a plan to borrow $1.25 million from Coast Seafoods and, in a quid pro quo bargain, grant a 10 year lease extension with 4 five year options to Coast Seafoods while Greg Dale was serving on the Board of Commissioners of the Humboldt Bay Harbor District."
"The lawsuit alleges that all defendants were aware of Greg Dale's capacity as an officer of Coast Seafoods, the party with which the Harbor District was contracting. The lawsuit alleges violation of Government Code 1090.
The lawsuit asks that Greg Dale no longer serve as a Commissioner on the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, that the lease extension and $1.25 million loan be voided, several injunctions and costs of attorney fees.
The lawsuit was filed by local attorney Mr. William Bertain for Mr. Leo Sears. The civil lawsuit is a complaint for declaratory relief and preliminary and final injunctions.
Mr. Bertain said that the Commissioners ignored the wishes of citizens. Mr. Bertain said by filing this lawsuit Mr. Sears hoped this would avoid future of conflict of interests.
One of the things that make this conflict of interest significant said Mr. Sears is the quid pro quo issue. "I really wanted to avoid this lawsuit," said Mr. Sears. "No man can serve two masters."
Section 1090 does not excuse a person from violation of the law just because he abstains or leaves the room, said Mr. Bertain.
Mr. Bertain referred to a 1985 Supreme Court case that upheld 1090. "I would no longer like to se Greg Dale serve on the Commission because of his conflict of interest," said Mr. Bertain. He described it as "blatant."
"We have two commissioners here right now, I guess we are ready to have a meeting." One of those commissioners was Mr. Marks. Mr. Crider had arrived with Mr. Marks. Mr. Greg Dale came in a few minutes late to the conference.
"We are dealing with the 1090 issue," said Mr. Dale. "You have to have ten percent in the company which I don't. This is a political stunt."
Mr. Dale called the people behind this effort a "group of individuals who have an interest in the East-West rail. It's not a coincidence that these people have been sending me threats for the past month and a half, are doing on the day the absentee ballots are to be sent out."
"I look forward to going to court," said Mr. Dale. "I have never been sued before."
Mr. Crider agreed with Mr. Dale that "this was a political stunt.". He said "I try not to get involved in the election office." Being named as a defendant in a lawsuit involving the Harbor is par for the course since he is the Executive Director.
"As soon as the election is over this will get dropped," said Mr. Crider. "We have had multiple attorneys on this, it was a complicated agreement. Because of public interest, we took public input in the final agreement."
Mr. Marks said that the timing was of interest since the absentee ballots come out tomorrow.
Mr. Sears said the timing was dictated by the actions of the Harbor District in September. It was September 10th when they multi-year extension of the lease with Coast Seafoods was signed. It was September 16th when he wrote a letter to the Editor asking for Mr. Dale to resign.
In the press release as well as remarks at the press conference, both Mr. Sears and Mr. Bertain said that at a luncheon meeting of the Fortuna Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Dale told the public attending that he was the one who conceived the idea and pushed the idea of Coast Seafoods, his employer, making a loan to the Harbor District to assist in the removal of pulp processing liquors from the Harbor District's recently purchased property at Samoa that was formerly the Freshwater Pulp Mill.
Mr. Sears also dismissed the criticism by Greg Dale that this was motivated in any way by people involved in the East West railroad. Mr. Sears said he had no connection with the East West railroad. "The only organization I pay dues and am a part of is the Taxpayers League."
KAEF, KIEM, TS, NCJ, LOCO were all present at the press conference.