City Prevails in Tree Removal Case

City Prevails in Tree Removal Case

NEWS RELEASE
Contact:  Janine Zúñiga (619) 522-7340


Judge Rules in City’s Favor in Tree Removal Case    

CORONADO, Calif. (December 5, 2019) – A judge has ruled in the City’s favor on all counts involving a lawsuit filed by a Coronado resident claiming mayoral bias and violations of the Brown Act by the City Council related to a tree removal request.

In response to the lawsuit filed by Harold DeNardi in May, the City filed a special motion to strike pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP statute, which is designed to provide for early dismissal of meritless lawsuits filed against people for exercising their First Amendment rights.

In his final ruling issued Dec. 2, San Diego Superior Court Judge Richard S. Whitney granted the City’s motion to strike the claim, ruling that DeNardi failed to provide sufficient evidence of his claims.

The case involved a Council action in February to overturn a Street Tree Committee decision. A private property owner on First Street asked to remove a tree from in front of his home. The Street Tree Committee allowed the removal of the tree in January. In February, another neighbor submitted an appeal to the City Council and the Council overturned the decision to remove the tree.

DeNardi submitted a claim to the City outlining the alleged violations, including that a group of residents met privately with individual Council members, called them and sent them emails to sway their decisions. The City denied the claim. DeNardi, who also lives on First Street, filed a lawsuit in May, alleging the mayor’s “apparent bias” in the case and further alleging Council participation in ex parte communications and private serial meetings by discussing the tree outside the presence of the opposing party. The communication, the lawsuit alleged, violated the Brown Act.

According to the judge, DeNardi’s “vague reference to emails and a failure to disclose a request for recusal do not explain the source of mayoral bias.” The judge also stated that “there is no evidence of any coordination or collective deliberation” on the part of the Council and that Council members’ disclosures of ex-parte communications “were sufficient.” 

The acronym “SLAPP” stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” Anti-SLAPP statutes were proposed to provide a quick, effective and inexpensive mechanism to combat such suits and enable those who are the subject of a SLAPP suit to get their legal fees reimbursed.

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Posted on 12/04/2019
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