Request for Public Records (July 12, 2016)

Contracts between Town of Apple Valley and private law firm Best Best & Krieger, LLP

Town of Apple Valley
14955 Dale Evans Pkwy.
Apple Valley, CA 92307

As a taxpayer residing in Apple Valley, pursuant to the California Public Records Act, I request copies of contracts executed between the Town of Apple Valley and the private, for-profit law firm Best Best & Krieger. Specifically, I am requesting a copy of the contract and relevant attachments governing Best Best & Krieger’s service as Town Attorney. Additionally, I request a copy of the separate agreement that authorizes Best Best & Krieger to provide counsel and litigation support for the Town of Apple Valley’s eminent domain lawsuit seeking to acquire the local water system and water rights from Liberty Utilities. Thirdly, I request all Town correspondence related to the RFP process by which Best Best & Krieger was selected including their proposal to the Town for representation in both instances (Town Attorney and eminent domain) as well as the proposals submitted by other law firms. Finally, I would like the staff recommendation advocating for Best Best & Krieger’s retention.

It appears that Best Best & Krieger has a conflict of interest in this matter, and the result is millions in legal fees that residents will have to bear, regardless of whether or not the eminent domain litigation is successful. Best Best & Krieger has a financial incentive to recommend and advocate on behalf of the eminent domain takeover. Given that they also are supposed to represent the Town as their legal counsel, they are severely compromised. Will Best Best & Krieger, acting as Town Attorney, recommend against pursuing costly litigation as recommended by Best Best & Krieger, the eminent domain lawyers?

Beyond these factors, are two much more concerning issues. First, the eminent domain scheme promoted by Town staff and Best Best & Krieger stipulates that all acquisition costs, including legal fees, would be financed through the issuance of revenue bonds. Essentially they have a blank check to bill as much as they can, knowing that taxpayers will have to repay their bill, with interest. One need only see how much Best Best & Krieger has billed in Claremont to recognize that they are simply trying to replicate their eminent domain profit machine here in Apple Valley too. It is no coincidence that Best Best & Krieger Partner Kendall H. MacVey is representing Claremont and Apple Valley for the eminent domain litigation.

Moveover, this whole effort has been conceived without any intent to allow residents to vote on whether or not they want the Town to proceed with the eminent domain lawsuit. A recent Daily Press poll of 800 residents revealed that residents oppose the eminent domain takeover by a 53-37 margin. Yet Best Best & Krieger partner John Brown, who currently serves as Town Attorney for Apple Valley, Ontario, and La Habra Heights, stated in the newspaper that the effort was moving forward without any delay.

Indeed things are moving forward aggressively, and in secret. One need only count the number of items Best Best & Krieger has addressed with the Town Council in closed session, since the last so-called Transparency Report last January. There have been dozens, too many to count, and each one is costing we voiceless residents money.

Accordingly, I am requesting copies of the contracts so that we may share with residents information regarding a private, for-profit law firm that is making millions by promoting the use of eminent domain in Southern California. For a Town that has claimed to be transparent, it’s time that residents are given clear information, instead of another eight closed session items as appear on tonight’s closed session agenda.

I would like to point out that BB&K was directed to produce an impartial analysis of the Right to Vote on Debt measure and produce a competing ballot measure of unknown content, with no public vetting, that will compete with the simple right to vote measure. Once again, when BB&K is financially incentivized to promote the eminent domain litigation, these two measures can hardly be impartial or have any other objective than to discourage the citizen measure and protect the status quo.

Apple Valley Town staff are supposed to act on behalf of taxpayers, not to line the pockets of a private law firm that boasts of representing municipalities across California. For these reasons, pursuant to the California Public Records Act, please provide copies of these documents as soon as possible.

Catherine Manning, Apple Valley, CA

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