Apr 20, 2016

No fireworks in Sears vs Dale lawsuit, another case management set

A case management conference was scheduled today at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom 8 on the Leo Sears v Greg Dale lawsuit.

For those expecting fireworks, sorry to disappoint. It was very amicable. Mr. Paul Brisso and Mr. Bill Bertain asked Judge Dale Reinholtsen for another case management conference in 90 days.

Next court hearing is on July 26 at 1:30 p.m.

No other media was in court.

Feb 12, 2016

Judge Dale Reinholtsen denies Harbor Commission motion to strike Leo Sears lawsuit

Judge Dale Reinholtsen promised he would have a ruling out this week and he did.

Leo Sear's attorney, Mr. William Bertain confirmed that Judge Dale Reinholtsen denies the defense's motion to strike Leo Sears lawsuit.

Briefly, Mr. Bertain said, "We won the motion to strike."

Judge Reinholtsen in the very last page of the ruling said that the defendant's motion to strike was exempt from anti-slapp analysis pursuant to CCP 425.17 (b).

Plaintiff, Leo Sears attorney costs and fees were denied because there was no frivolous delay.

Mr. Sears said, "I was confident that their challenge would be denied, and I look forward to the case going forward on its merits."

Harbor Commissioner Richard Marks said, "Round one was not in the Harbor Districts favor. Our motion to "strike" or the "anti Slapp statute" was denied. Disappointing but not earth shattering. I am confident we will prevail in the long run."

Feb 5, 2016

Judge Reinholtsen said ruling on Sears v Dale lawsuit will be out next week

The lawsuit that Leo Sears filed against Greg Dale in Humboldt Superior Court had a case management conference scheduled this afternoon.

Paul Brisso was present for Dale and other defendants. Mr. William Bertain for Sears.

Another court date is set for April 20 at 1:30 p.m.

He said his ruling on the defendant's motion to strike will be out next week.

Judge Reinholtsen  referred to a California U. S. Supreme Court case, Montebello v Vasquez about anti-slapp motion in his research on this case. There is also an amicus brief just filed that has "a split between the 1st District and 2nd District."

Nov 30, 2015

FPPC opens investigation into Leo Sears' allegations about the Harbor District, FPPC also rules that Greg Dale can use campaign funds for this civil lawsuit

This afternoon, a hearing was held for the lawsuit that Leo Sears has filed against Greg Dale, Jack Crider, and the rest of the Commissioners of the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District. Judge Reinholtsen did not make a ruling today on either the defendant's motion to strike or the continuance requested by Mr. Bill Bertain. He has taken the matter under submission and will be issuing a written ruling.

Mr. Bertain is representing Mr. Sears. Mr. Paul Brizzo is representing the Harbor District.

The Fair Political Practices Commission sent a letter on November 10 to Mr. Bertain that they are looking into the allegations made by Mr. Sears. As required, they have notified Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming of this investigation they have opened.

Mr. Bertain filed an opposition to the defendant's motion to strike on November 16. Mr. Beratin also filed a declaration in support of objection to evidence based on newly acquired evidence on November 24. In this declaration, there are documents attached including emails which Mr. Bertain claims contradict declarations by Greg Dale that he did not participate in any Harbor District transactions with Pacific Seafoods/Coast Seafoods.

Mr. Brisso also filed responses. Mr. Brisso said that the lawsuit against Greg Dale was a violation of his first amendment rights and other consitutional rights. He also called most of the ex-parte issues "irrelevant."

I will have another detailed post on the oral arguments today by the attorneys.

At today's hearing, Mr. Bertain asked the Judge for a 30 day continuance to file a supplemental opposition based on newly acquired evidence.

From the FPPC Nov 5 monthly report:

Greg Dale     A-15-210 The Act does not prohibit a Commissioner of the Humboldt  Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation  District from  using campaign funds to pay for legal services related  to  defense of a civil lawsuit  alleging that the Commissioner  and the District violated Section 1090 because there  is a direct relationship between the  expenditure  for legal services and  the  Commissioner’s status as an elected officer.

Previous posts:

Leo Sears rejects LOCO's characterization of him as a "railroad buff" and sets the record straight
I happened to call Mr. Leo Sears right in the midst of him writing a response to LOCO mislabeling him as a railroad buff.

After reading all of today's coverage of the press conference, including mine, Mr. Sears gave me permission to print his response on my blog.

This is Mr. Sears response:

"Your headline derogatorily refers to me a “Railroad Buff”. At the-turn-of-the-century, I served a three year term as a Director of the North Coast Railroad, and have long since recognized our areas need for improved transportation.

That having been said, I have never advocated for (or against) an east west railroad. Richard Marks, President of the of the Harbor District, also serves as a Director of the North Coast Railroad Authority and has spoken of the need for improved transportation. I have never thought of Richard as a “Railroad Buff”, and doubt that Richard is a member or advocate of the east west group. I totally reject the bias you've used to paint me with false colors.

Over the past 20 years I have attended numerous monthly Citizens for Port Development luncheons at the Samoa Cook House, as have many Harbor Commissioners. I never felt doing so necessary made me or them members of the Citizens for Port Development. I am not a member of the Citizens for Port Development, and was unequivocal when asked at the press conference. You have simply taken a whole cloth claim by the Commissioners, and ignored asking me for confirmation.

The accusation that the timing the suit is simply to affect the election is a wholly biased and unfounded accusation. Any blame for the timing of the suit fall directly on the shoulders of the Harbor District. It is in reaction to actions they took in September, and I could not have acted any sooner.

To be perfectly clear, I answer to no one other than myself. Over recent years I absented myself from community involvement to care for the declining health of my wife. But I believe my track record to be one of pursuing Economic Growth and Stability. That is what I'm trying to do now. Nothing more, nothing less."

Oct 5, 2015

"I really want to avoid this lawsuit" Leo Sears wants Greg Dale to resign among other remedies sought

The Harbor District races this November just got a kickstart.

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."

Oct 5, 2015

Leo Sears filed a conflict of interest lawsuit in Humboldt Superior Court against Greg Dale, the Harbor District and other commisioners.

This morning, Leo Sears filed a conflict of interest lawsuit in Humboldt Superior Court against Greg Dale, the Harbor District, and the other 4 commissioners.

A press conference is being held at 1 p.m. in front of the Courthouse where more details and a copy of the complaint will be available.

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