Julian paramedics struggling after County freezes JCFPD funds
By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor
Read the documents here: JCFPDCourtDocuments
View older ECM article on Brown Act violations: https://www.eastcountymagazine.org/julian-cuyamaca-keep-fire-district-starts-path-healing
April 15, 2019 (Julian) -- The judge who ruled in favor of the Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District a week ago, San Diego Superior Court Judge Randa Trapp, late Friday afternoon was designated to preside over the ex parte hearing requested by JCFPD attorney Cory Briggs. The change of judge was noted in the legal case’s online Register of Actions on the San Diego Superior Court website.
An ex parte hearing had been scheduled for last Wednesday in the courtroom of San Diego Superior Court D Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil. But the hearing ended up getting postponed when San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) attorneys requested a change of venue. Briggs announced via Twitter on Wednesday that Judge John S. Meyer would preside over a hearing for JCFPD’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order would be held a week later on April 17.
The hearing will now be heard a day earlier on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. in Department 70 under the gavel of Judge Trapp.
In an ex parte temporary restraining order situation, both the plaintiff and the defendant get one chance to change judges. Similar to a civil case where a jury is selected, both sides have one pick to change judges. The wild card is that a second judge can pick if he wants to hear the case or give it to a third judge. In this case, Judge Meyers opted for his colleague, Judge Randa Trapp, to take over the case which she ruled on previously.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Randa Trapp on Apr. 12 ruled in favor of the Julian Volunteer fire Company Association, Battalion Chief Brian Crouch, Eva and Mike Hatch, and Dave Southcott. Trapp upheld their claim that the JCFPD board in 2018 violated the Brown Act, California’s open government statute, specifically regarding citizens attending a public agency meeting, disallowing a secret ballot vote, and the reporting of the results of a meeting. The former JCFPD board’s decision set in motion the LAFCO process to dissolve the district.
With high stakes at play for both sides, in what direction Tuesday’s hearing will go is anyone’s guess.
On Thursday this past week, the County of San Diego filed numerous declarations in opposition to JCFPD’s ex parte application for a temporary restraining order. On the County’s side are Cal Fire Chief Tony Mecham, San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu, and former JCFPD board members who voted for the dissolution, Aida Tucker and Harry Charles Seifert. Senior Deputy County Counsel Joshua Heinlein representing County Counsel, Thomas E. Montgomery also offers an extensive opposition to the ex parte application by JCFPD.
Mecham in his declaration makes several allegations that the volunteers at Fire Station No. 56 sought to “to get deputies to leave the County station and proceed to Station No. 56. After multiple false calls, the Sheriff’s Lieutenant wet to Station No. 56 and asked the people there to stop.”
After LAFCO voted to accept the election and proceed with the reorganization, the staff of the County Fire Authority went to Fire Station No. 56 with one Sheriff deputy “for protection.” Mecham continues, “At the time, people purporting to act on behalf of JCFPD and the Julian firefighters were standing outside Station 56 locked inside the station.” Mecham denies that deputies removed their weapons from holsters, arrest, or handcuff anyone, “or take any aggressive acts. The only reason the deputies were in the area were to keep the peace,” he asserts.
Mecham says the deputies were replaced by unarmed (the words in bold) officers “to merely observe and document the removal of and/or damage to any assets” previously owned by JCFPD.
He disputes a declaration of Van Bibber claiming that County firefighters have not “been trained or certified to operate or maintain any of the JCFPD facilities, vehicles, or other equipment.” Mr. Van Bibber’s statements are false,” Mecham claims. Further, Mecham expresses his concern in the declaration “that if Plaintiffs continue to be in possession of former JCFPD equipment, that equipment will be lost, stolen, dissipated, or otherwise harmed.”
County Registrar of Voters Michael in his opposition declaration addresses the details of the Mar. 19 election in which 54% of Julian voters decided to abolish the JCFPD.
In declarations which are virtually similar, former JCFPD board members Aida Tucker and Harry Charles Seifert, Jr. state that “at no time leading up to the April 10, 2018 vote was there any kind of secret meeting or series of meetings whereby the District Board had already determined it would vote to apply to LAFCO to dissolve. “
So far, there have been no declarations filed with the Superior Court from former JCFPD board members Jack Shelver, Kirstin Starlin, Rick Marinelli and former fire district secretary Marcia “Missy” Spahr.
The County also claims that “the biggest threat to the former JCFPD assets and property are the former JCFPD Board members and their supporters.”
The answer to the County and LAFCO’s opposition to the ex parte hearing filed by attorney Craig A. Sherman disputes their argument that there is no merit that prosecution of the Brown Act case “was procedurally flawed in any way.” Neither the County nor LAFCO were a party to the Brown Act case “nor should they have been. No demand was made against the County or LAFCO, and no Brown Act violations against the County or LAFCO were alleged,” they assert.
Sherman, however, points out what was missing in the opposition papers of the County and LAFCO is how LAFCO’s decision to take final action to dissolve the District on Apr. 8 was a “blatant and knowing affront” to a Superior Court order and judgment that was made retroactively to correct an earlier wrong decision by JCFPD to submit a dissolution application to LAFCO.
He says that the County’s and LAFCO’s claims that the plaintiffs and defendant in the Brown Act Case hid documents from the court and committed fraud and allegedly colluded “is an inflammatory and unsupported argument that has no evidence to support its wild claims.”
While both sides of the issue bicker in front of a judge, as reported previously by East County Magazine, six Julian paramedics have still not been paid for services rendered when the County froze JCFPD’s assets at the same time when the district usually issues payments.
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