Council should be protected
Developer Tom Fogarty’s lawsuit naming the city, The notion of individual liability was suggested by Fogarty’s attorney, Doug Aikins, in a letter to Chico City Attorney Dave Frank. In the letter Aikins suggests that the councilmembers’ actions “were patently illegal, whimsical and a gross departure from normal standards of good municipal government.” Fogarty’s suit says the council majority—those named as defendants—did not follow proper administrative procedure when it voted to prevent the developer from building 80 houses up into the foothills, exceeding an elevation limit as stated in the city’s General Plan. Aikins said the individual councilmembers made themselves liable because they ignored the Frank’s legal advice as spelled out in a confidential memo.
That memo was leaked to the Enterprise-Record and as such has become part of the legal proceedings. In the memo Frank spells out for the council two scenarios that could result from its action: The court may find the council had the legal right to do what it did; or else it did not.
This is pretty basic legal advice. If individual councilmembers were that vulnerable to private lawsuits for their actions as civil servants, nobody would ever run for office. Fogarty’s attorney is simply trying to intimidate the council majority in hopes it will cave under the threat.