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Thread: Public agencies being sued

  1. #1
    Cyburbian transguy's avatar
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    Public agencies being sued

    In the last year or two my fair city has started to have more and more claims filed against us. Unfortunately, the majority of these claims are rooted in some pretty good complaints from the private sector, primarily dealing with some extremely poor Plans and Ordinances we have adopted/enacted. Now Staff's time is to some extent being used in the preparation of materials to "try" and make the case the best we can, even though 95% of us where not around when the problems began. This is somewhat troublesome because we are extremely slow in trying to correct the problems because we are spending so much time trying to defend previous actions.

    So, I started to wonder how often these things come up in other areas. How often do you get sued? How often do these suits actually get to trial? And how many of these actually receive a judgment?

  2. #2
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    We're usually good for once or twice a year getting someone to file on a development-related lawsuit. About 80% of them get tossed, usually for standing. In my career, I have only experienced one successful lawsuit, which we knew we were going to lose and couldn't convince the Council that we should settle. During the suit, my boss (the director) was basically a witness for the plaintiff. While he was taking care of the suit, a couple of us were busy writing a code revision to address the problem.

    If you guys are really getting pounded and have exhausted all time management options to free staff, then I think your city will need to consider bringing in a consultant to do a major revision to your codes. The only way to get updates done in a timely manner may be handing the revision project to someone outside the organization.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by transguy View post
    ...the majority of these claims are rooted in some pretty good complaints from the private sector, primarily dealing with some extremely poor Plans and Ordinances we have adopted/enacted. Now Staff's time is to some extent being used in the preparation of materials to "try" and make the case the best we can, even though 95% of us where not around when the problems began. This is somewhat troublesome because we are extremely slow in trying to correct the problems because we are spending so much time trying to defend previous actions.
    ^^This is how the staff members of NYC agencies must feel @Federal lawsuit brought by private sector against City for 40 years of neglect in a Queens Borough area: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/10/ny...lawsuit&st=cse

  4. #4
    Cyburbian transguy's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seana View post
    ^^This is how the staff members of NYC agencies must feel @Federal lawsuit brought by private sector against City for 40 years of neglect in a Queens Borough area: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/10/ny...lawsuit&st=cse
    Well things are that bad here; and thank goodness. The main issue is that our Council often takes the stance of "Let them sue, we still don't want them/that here." What they are failing to see is that a lawsuit would award the plantiff some financial compensation, and also may allow the development as proposed. Ultimately our major problem with this is that we suffer from a lack of a person who is very knowledgable and a good leader to help deal with difficult issues. Things are constantly changing lately and it seems like it's been for the better, but time will tell.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    We get sued all the time. Usually, we will go into non-binding arbitration as a means of finding a compromise, but we have been known to just duke it out in front of a judge once in a while. I would say that on average (when we are not in a screwed up real estate cycle) we get sued about 10 times per year out of 150 cases (zoning) per year.
    Satellite City Enabler

  6. #6
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I used to work for a City that could have used a lawsuit or two to correct things in the planning realm. Even sometime when things got crazy with Council and I was sure that a lawsuit would come in, nothing did.
    Sometimes that is the best way to shake things up and get your code and review practices corrected. Instead management and council acted and led under a guise of "diplomatic immunity" and I took off for smaller and "rednecker" pastures.

    We only got one when I was there, an absurd attempt at lawsuit because "we denied their building permit..." (based on the building code). That got thrown out real quick.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    We get sued a lot and loose, you would think higher ups would learn but nope.

    There is nothing worse I have been involved with than being told to prepare things for a lawsuit you know will will and SHOULD win. It truly sucks when the powers that be know they are in the wrong and want you to fudge things to make them right.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  8. #8
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    My city has been sued on numerous occasions by the Sierra Club. They generally take some settlement money and we make some modifications to the plans and things eventually move along.

    Lately I have been irritated by law suits filed by other public agencies. I find it very disoncerting to have taxpayer money being spent to both inititate and defend the same law suits. This seems very irresponsible on the part of the plaintiff, who in this case is coming to our city for support on a bond measure they are initiating. So, on one hand they want our support, and on the other they are suing us.

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