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Council won't oppose Poseidon as a group

Mayor Connie Boardman will send an individual letter to the Coastal Commission asking it to deny a permit for the desalination plant.

May 08, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio

The Huntington Beach City Council decided Monday not to send a group letter to the state Coastal Commission opposing a proposed desalination plant for fear they may be sued.

Councilman Jim Katapodis' substitute motion to allow individual council members a chance to submit their own letter instead of as a group passed 4-3, with Mayor Connie Boardman, Councilwoman Jill Hardy and Councilman Joe Shaw dissenting.

The original intent of the item — introduced by Boardman — was to send the California Coastal Commission a letter asking them to deny Connecticut-based Poseidon Resource's coastal development permit. But after City Council received a letter from Poseidon's legal staff Monday afternoon, which they interpreted as a threat of a lawsuit, the council opted not to the send a letter as a whole.

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"The prior council made decisions before [about Poseidon], but to me it wouldn't be good to open this up to litigation," Katapodis said. "Poseidon didn't say it exactly, but they certainly hinted strong enough… We should just [write a letter] on our own."

Christopher Garrett, a lawyer representing Poseidon, emailed city staff a letter Monday afternoon, stating they would "exercise its legal rights and remedies if the council were to take collective action to adopt the item," Garrett wrote in an email to Huntington Beach assistant city attorney Michael Vigliotta.

During and after the meeting, Garrett and Poseidon Vice President Scott Maloni both reiterated that a lawsuit was never threatened.

"It was never our intention to threaten a lawsuit," Maloni said. "We needed to make the city aware of what we thought were our legal rights and what we thought would be inappropriate action on the part of the City Council."

Boardman said city attorney Jennifer McGrath told her if they were to write a group letter they might be in violation of interrupting due process.

But the mayor said she anticipated Poseidon reacting to her agenda item and was surprised that the rest of the dais was caught off guard.

"Of course they were going to send a letter threatening to sue us," she said. "I'm surprised the council got spooked by that. I expected them to send a letter threatening to sue us as part of their strategy to keep us from writing the letter."

There were over two hours of public comments from about 50 pro- and anti-Poseidon speakers Monday.

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