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Horse center suing DeLongs

Equestrian center wants the council candidate and his wife to leave the grounds immediately.

January 20, 2010|By Michael Miller

The Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center has sued City Council candidate Gregg DeLong and his wife, demanding their immediate departure from the grounds.

The center’s attorney also questioned a key allegation in a claim DeLong has filed against the city and center.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday with Orange County Superior Court, claims that DeLong and his wife, Evette DeLong, have repeatedly violated center rules and ignored numerous eviction notices.

DeLong filed a claim this month alleging that the center has failed to deliver revenues it owes to the city and that its management violates worker-compensation laws and harasses boarders.

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DeLong, a boarder at the center since 2006, said he plans to fight his removal.

“I have not violated any rules of the concession agreement, and we will adamantly be fighting any attempt to evict us from a public park,” he said.

DeLong’s claim alleges that trainers and other businesses at the center owe the city a portion of their revenues.

The claim cites a clause in a 1982 agreement stating that the center owes the city a percentage of revenues from boarding, rentals and retail, whether those services are provided by the center or by licensed businesses.

According to DeLong, that means that businesses operating at the center, including Rick Baer Training Stables, Huntington Beach Riding School and Therapeutic Riding Center of Huntington Beach, owe the city as much as $1.5 million in revenues. However, attorney Michael Lanphere said none of the businesses on the site are subcontractors, and hence owe the city nothing.

“They are trainers who are qualified with their own separate business licenses,” he said. “They have board agreements and bring in many other customers and clients [to the center].”

Two business owners at the center also said they had not been paying a portion of their gross receipts to the city and had never heard of any such arrangement.

Julie Golden, owner of Julie Golden Stables, and Tracy Baer, owner of Windsong Farm, said they pay center owner Mary Behrens for their board and horse feed, and their customers pay them directly for riding lessons.

“We do not have anything signed with Mary,” Golden said. “We do not have anything signed with the city. So his claim that we’re supposed to pay these back revenues is impossible to enforce.

“Nobody agreed to a contract in the beginning and then refused to follow through with it.”

She added that she had nothing but praise for Behrens, whom DeLong accused in the claim of both dishonesty and using abusive language against him.

“She’s been absolutely fantastic to me,” Golden said. “As a horse owner and a Huntington Beach resident, she’s always been fair and honest and forthright with me.”

Other businesses at the center, as well as Behrens, did not return calls seeking comment. City Atty. Jennifer McGrath said she was preparing a response to DeLong’s claim and expected to have it ready later this week.


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