Tantrum time

City Council conservatives have a fit over not getting their way

Three of the conservatives on the City Council certainly had their panties in a wad this week over not getting their way when it comes to Chico Scrap Metal’s on-again, off-again amortization.

As you’ll see in Ashiah Scharaga’s coverage of Tuesday evening’s regular council meeting, during closed session, the panel voted to appeal a Butte County Superior Court ruling calling for the city to repeal Ordinance 2490 or place the issue on the ballot, as a successful signature-gathering effort called for back in 2016. The announcement came hours after a majority followed Judge Tamara Mosbarger’s order by voting to repeal the ordinance designed to allow the recycler to stay put—and, boy, were they unhappy with her.

Of note is how progressive Councilman Randall Stone voted no as a way to compel the mayor, Sean Morgan, to comply with the judge’s order by voting in the affirmative. That must have stung. Seriously, he looked pained.

Vice Mayor Reanette Fillmer seemed most upset with the order from Mosbarger, who, she charged, as she put it multiple times, was “cocursing us.” I think she meant coercing. Fillmer also went into fear-mongering mode—warning business owners that people in the room would like to shut down their livelihoods and telling citizens they should be concerned about their voting rights. The latter statement was ironic considering she blocked Chicoans from weighing in on the referendum.

Giving a caveat that he’s never been an attorney and has not been advised by one, Morgan weighed in by saying he thinks Chico Scrap Metal will sue the city and likely win. His logic: “The loss incurred would be more than the attorney fees we’re paying.”

Then came Councilman Mark Sorensen, who went straight to the U.S. Constitution. He blathered on about “takings” and said the amortization clause was unconstitutional and illegal. But he was light on specifics, pointing to little else but his “belief.” He also said the whole thing stems from “an old political vendetta and the city is just a pawn in the game.” He didn’t explain that one, either. I’m stumped.

The lack of transparency here is ludicrous. Consider the indemnification issue—the conservatives voted to get litigious on this issue under the belief the city’s legal fees would be covered by Chico Scrap Metal. That move is backfiring—CSM hasn’t paid up and doesn’t intend to do so, since the development agreement signed by its owners (which contains the indemnification) never went into effect.

Yours truly first reported the whole indemnification issue while trying to figure out how much money the city had spent thanks to the conservatives digging in their heels. Back in January, the tab was about $74,000. My question: How much has been spent as of today?

Then there’s the recent writ of supersedeas, something you haven’t heard about. Back in July, when the council first voted to draft the ordinance they voted on this week, the city attorney attempted to block it by asking the appellate court to put the kibosh on the superior court’s order. That effort failed. But here’s the thing: The council never gave the city attorney the go-ahead to attempt that legal maneuver. So, under whose authority did that happen?

In short, the saga continues. Stay tuned.