South Lake Tahoe City Council discusses two ongoing lawsuits, including Loop Road issue | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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South Lake Tahoe City Council discusses two ongoing lawsuits, including Loop Road issue

Opposition to the Loop Road project is concerned about the number of residential and commercial properties that could be impacted and the cost of the project, among other reasons.
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Though one lawsuit may be squared away for the City of South Lake Tahoe, two more are still ongoing.

In the same Aug. 2 council meeting in which Mayor Wendy David announced that the city and councilwoman JoAnn Conner had reached a non-monetary settlement in the lawsuit contesting her censure, council convened in a closed session to discuss another pending lawsuit.

According to the agenda, council met with legal counsel to discuss the suit brought against the city by the City of South Lake Tahoe Retirees Association over health benefits.



Joe Rose, whose firm represents the association, said the lawsuit is a result of the city reducing health benefits for retired city employees as part of cost-cutting measures that took effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Rose and his firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of the 160-member association in U.S. federal court in Sacramento on Dec. 1, 2015.




“City of South Lake Tahoe seniors fear financial ruin as their healthcare deductibles ratcheted to $5,500 per year, while younger, active city employees receive cash subsidies to pay for rising premiums, the lawsuit says,” according to a release by Rose Law.

The healthcare overhaul modified coverage for both current and retired employees of the city. The cost-cutting measures were estimated to save the city $1.5 million per year for three years. Under the new plan, vision and dental coverage were also eliminated.

City manager Nancy Kerry previously told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that she stood by the decision to save taxpayers’ money in relation to the policy.

Assistant city attorney Nira Doherty reported by email that on July 25, Judge Kimberly J. Mueller issued a ruling on the case.

“The city received a favorable ruling, in which our argument that the Retiree Association lacked associational standing was granted,” wrote Doherty. “The ruling effectively bars the Retiree Association from seeking monetary damages related to changes in the city’s health plan. The lawsuit will continue, but only as to injunctive and declaratory relief.”

LOOP ROAD LAWSUIT

Lawsuit No. 2 for the City of South Lake Tahoe pertains to the ever-controversial Loop Road project.

Jason Collin, Barton Home Health & Hospice’s director and a South Lake Tahoe resident, filed a lawsuit on July 14 that attempts to block the city from putting the future of the U.S. Highway 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project to a citywide vote in November’s election.

The city approved the ballot measure at the July 19 council meeting following a petition submitted by Let Tahoe Decide, a group that has been vocal in its opposition to the Loop Road.

Collin’s lawsuit argues that “adopting or presenting to voters a fundamentally flawed ballot initiative measure, which, as drafted, is invalid on its face and, if adopted, would violate state law and unlawfully interfere with the city’s authority as granted by the State Legislature.”

Laurel Ames, John Cefalu, Bill Crawford, and Bruce Grego are named as “real parties of interest” in the suit because of their support of the ballot measure.

In a special closed session of city council on July 21, the “real parties in interest” were on hand for public comment. According to minutes from the meeting, John Cefalu “stated that he was insulted that the lawsuit challenged those individuals who had signed the petition insinuating that they were coerced or were misled into signing the petition, which was absolutely incorrect.”

All parties in the lawsuit participated in a scheduling conference before Judge Warren Stracener on Aug. 3, according to assistant city attorney Nira Doherty.

“The case may be transferred to another judge,” wrote Doherty in an email. “The parties agreed to a hearing date on Plaintiffs petition for writ of mandate. That hearing date is Aug. 22. All parties will brief the issues of the lawsuit prior to that date.”


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