I hail from Oregon. We have unusual laws in sense that we can "appeal" a decision at the state level for a minimal amount. However, that often still doesn't provide justice on a wrong decision if you are fighting an applicant with an experienced lawyer ... but it does help keep costs down.
In our town there is a planning board that has only "reccommending" authority. City Councils and our City Administrator makes all the decisions on land use and building permits. Our town is about 3000 and we have a professional planner on contract from the outside that I think is really outstanding.... except for one thing. He is paid by the City. I am currently in litigation with the city about a decision they made. He wrote an affidavit (he's AICP) stating he's the final decision maker. In Oregon, only the decision of a "final decision maker" can be appealed. He signed the decision but the written decision states that the City Administrator was the final decision maker. His name is on it but not signed. The City Administrator has told me again and again that he is the final authority.... The City Administrator disliked me from the day I asked to about information on a project. Since then things have only gotten worse. I've discovered at least three instances where his integrity can be questioned... "re-writing" a code through his own handwritten note and then telling people that a decision is "ministerial" rather than "administrative (with the right of notice and comment), writing off a $5000 debt for an individual that supports the project (City Council doesn't know), and charging fees that supposedly passed by Ordinance .... but the Ordinance wasn't signed until about 4 months later.... and then he kept the previous date on it.
Anyhow, now to circumvent a state law, he's saying he ISN'T the final decision maker, the hired-planner is. The affidavit of the planner states he is. But the curious thing is that the planner leaves out why he believes he is when the City Administrator has final authority and simply (so the City Administrator told me) goave the planner the authority to sign on his behalf. I understand he's in a tough position.
The City is 100% behind the project but I've since found out that the applicant's statements are based upon 1/2 truths (ie "it is a 31 unit park" vs. "there are 8 units in the park...the rest have been vacant for 10+ years (and lost to non-conforming use waiver). That it is more aesthetic (8 siingle wide MH homes vs. 31 RV spots with up to 62 RVs and 31 cars ---looks like a parking lot), and that there is a need for tourism (there isn't). Nothing in the decision is consistent. I've also discovered in reviewing the old City Council minutes that many members of the City Council support the current RV parks to the extent that they are ignoring enforcing any state laws on occupancy and giving reduced sewer rates. I don't have a problem with people living in RV's. But I'm frustrated by the lack of integrity of the City Administrator and the influence it is having upon this new planner that I think really wants to serve the public openly and honestly but whos hands are tied by his "boss."
My question is, then, how would you deal with this. The last conversation I had with the City Administrator was quite heated and I told him if he wants to put his integrity on trial, I'm willing to do it....but I don't want to put the planner's on trial... How do I get the planner to be wholly truthful.... that is not leave out important information in telling the truth..... a 1/2 truth can still very much be a lie. What would you advise. Each time I try to speak with him, he tells me he can't speak with me because it isn't in his contract and is outside his authority... because I'm in litigation with the city.
Concerned Citizen for a Change