Friday, May 18, 2012
Where Otters Lead, Barron Von Footinmouths Follow
When Otter returned to Court the very next morning, I still had no idea a hearing had been scheduled. But Judge Beltrami, leery of acting ex parte against anyone, dismissed the case. He would likely be offended to know Otter had passed up an opportunity to inform me about the hearing.
I know I was.
This was obviously a malicious prosecution, as both the Otter and Mezzacappa will soon learn in another venue.
He claims he's an election law expert, but his real specialty is frivolous litigation. He's the crusader who filed four separate motions for attorney fees in the Gracedale saga.
Ron Angle and I, as some of you no doubt remember, had challenged the validity of the signatures for a referendum on Gracedale's sale. We lost the case.
Then Otter came after us for attorney fees in four separate motions, claiming we had acted in bad faith by discussing our challenge with County attorneys. He had all the email exchanges, thanks to Right-to-Know requests filed by Lamont McClure and the Gracedale people. He demanded a criminal investigation, and told Channel 69 we could be going to jail.
The reality? I really resented the claim that anyone "coached" me. I spent weeks in the elections office, reviewing nomination petitions. I spent at least another week researching and preparing a complaint. It was my work product. But yes, I sent numerous drafts of my Complaint, as it evolved. Right before filing, I received some suggestions from an attorney at the firm engaged to conduct Gracedale's sale. I accepted most of them.
This firm was acting under express authority of a County Council resolution that stated its "clear intent" was to authorize this law firm "to facilitate and expedite all issues" that would result in Gracedale's sale. Presumably, that would include discussions with allied private litigants who are attempting to achieve the very same goal. The resolution is broad enough that the firm actually could have represented us, although we preferred to make our own mistakes.
Now you could argue that Council never dreamed that the firm it hired would discuss a matter with allied private litigants. I get that. But the language in the resolution is what controls. Facilitate and expedite all issues leading to Gracedale's sale, charged Council.
Ironically, Otter is himself a private litigant who was engaged in numerous strategy sessions with none other than Controller Barron von Footinmouth. Yes, the same lawyer who brayed about the shock and horror of county attorneys discussing a case with private litigants, had absolutely no problem discussing the very same case with the Controller and his attorney.
Despite all his yelling and wild claims, which included vague allegations of perjury, the Otter was finally bounced out of Judge Baratta's courtroom. Naturally, he appealed. The Commonwealth Court quashed his appeal. Now his claim is in its death throes in the Court of Final Error, before the state supremes.
He'll be tossed from there, too.
Although there's never been any evidence of impropriety, Controller Barron von Footinmouth has decided to bring up the same subject again. Get this. He admits himself that he has no authority to seek a surcharge against anyone. He knows that a recent independent audit by a real accountant makes no finding of impropriety. But he wants copies of all emails. Never mind that he's had them for a year. And if he doesn't get them, he'll be asking Council for subpoenas.
Amazingly, he admitted to Council last night that the Gracedale people are in his loop. Gee, they just happen to be private litigants, too. He complains about Stoffa using County resources to assist us, but sees nothing improper or wrong with using his own County resources to help them? Just because they like to call themselves "We, the People," that doesn't make it so.
Maybe he should surcharge himself.
Barron is a political Controller. He's established that with T-Mobile. He proved it again with the asbestos scare. And now he is impugning the integrity of John Stoffa to get a few brownie points with the Gracedale unions.
When John Stoffa leaves office, he will do so knowing he has always been guided by one principal - doing the right thing. When Barron leaves, he'll just leave.
Updated 9:50 PM: Among his blunders in his presentation on Thursday evening, Barron von Footinmouth referred to the wrong County Council Resolution. He cited the 8/19/10 Resolution authorizing the Exec to seek proposals for Gracedale's sale, which has nothing to do with the decision to hire a law firm. that Resolution, adopted 10/21/10, hires a private law firm for legal services on issues that arise in connection with Gracedale's sale. "It shall be understood that the clear intent of the contract with [Eckert Seamans] is to facilitate and expedite all issues that will result in the alternate ownership (sale/lease) of Gracedale."
It amazes me that, after all this time, Barron still would be unaware of this resolution or its broad mandate.