Judge makes first ruling in Meghdadi’s lawsuit
Andrew Meghdadi, the Chico developer accused by the city of taking down more trees on his Terra Bella subdivision than the city said he could, received an initial ruling on his suit against the city this week from a Butte County Superior Court judge.

Judge Steven Howell granted Meghdadi’s request that the city be made to set aside or vacate the Chico City Council’s April 2 vote to require that Meghdadi do a supplemental environmental-impact report. That means the requirement is now off the table but could come back if the city makes a good argument in its favor. The city called for the new EIR because the physical character of the property where the project is to be built in southeast Chico had changed dramatically with the felling of the trees—plus it was a way to punish Meghdadi in that it would cost the developer $50,000 by city estimates ($100,000 by Meghdadi’s) and delay the start of the project, running up interest costs on construction loans.

Meghdadi’s request of the court, filed by Sacramento attorney William Warne, argued that the council does not have the jurisdiction to require the supplemental EIR and in doing so violated the California Environmental Quality Act. Plus, by not allowing Meghdadi to respond in timely fashion, the city violated his right to due process. Howell ruled that the city must either rescind the requirement for a new EIR or else show cause on why it shouldn’t have to. Once further court documents have been filed, the city will have 30 days to respond.

CUSD chief’s raise likely less than 2 percent
A modest raise is on tap for Superintendent Scott Brown, as the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees was set to consider renewing his contract at an Aug. 7 meeting, after the News & Review’s press time.

If the contract is approved as expected, Brown, who currently earns $128,824 a year, will get an increase equal to the 2002-03 Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). The state budget has yet to be approved, but a fairly low COLA of about 1.66 percent is expected. If that holds, Brown’s salary will rise to about $131,000.

“We just decided to give him the same thing that CUMA got,” said board President Ann Sisco, referring to the Chico Unified Management Association to which administrators belong. Sisco said Brown’s review was favorable and praised him effusively. “He’s doing just a super job,” said Sisco, who hopes Brown stays with the CUSD until he retires.

Brown was hired in June 1999 at a salary of $115,000 a year plus a $6,000-a-year car allowance, which was later rolled into his salary. He got a 2.5 percent raise in 2000 and a 3.87 percent raise in 2001. This year, his contract is set to be extended three years, with one change being that money spent on his fringe benefits can now credited toward his retirement, but Brown will have to pick up the extra $900 or so in benefits costs on his own. “It’s a benefit to the superintendent to be able to apply his benefits to the salary, and it’s not a cost to the district,” explained CUSD attorney Greg Einhorn, who drew up the document.

Jury still out on new judge appointment
Two local attorneys who applied for Butte County’s newest judicial seat are still waiting for word on who won the appointment. Attorneys Robert Glusman and Francisco "Pancho" Zarate confirmed that they applied to Gov. Gray Davis for the Superior Court appointment last year. They’ve been interviewed by the state Bar Association and representatives from the Governor’s Office, but are still waiting for Davis to make the appointment. The seventh Butte County Superior Court seat was added by the state Legislature last year, because of the county’s population growth. Glusman, who practices law in a private firm, ran for a judicial seat two years ago. Zarate is the chief deputy district attorney for Butte County. The appointment, Glusman said, "could come down this afternoon or next month. We really don’t know when it will happen. No one knows, except the governor."