Half Moon Bay Settles Kehoe Ditch Suit

City pays nearly $300,000 under terms of the deal, but avoids legal costs and potential fines in excess of $1 million.

Facing penalties that could have cost Half Moon Bay in excess of $1 million, the city council on Tuesday approved the settlement of a lawsuit alleging the city botched drainage ditch work that obstructed the flow of storm water.

The council agreed to reimburse the plaintiffs in “James Lawrence Benjamin and Zoya Dorry Benjamin v. City of Half Moon Bay” $295,000 in legal expenses.

Terms of the deal also included the retroactive processing of a Coastal Development Permit for maintenance work performed in 2009. The city must also hold a public hearing to consider updating the City’s coastal resources map to include the Kehoe ditch and adjacent areas as potential California red-legged frog habitat , as well as proceedings to consider vacating an unneeded easement for potential future street purposes along Pilarcitos Avenue.

A judge in 2011 ruled that the drainage ditch work, which involved the removal of several small willow trees and other vegetation obstructing the flow of storm water caused minimal property damage, but assessed a $1,000-per-day fine covering a period of almost three years from the date of the project's completion to the date of the court's ruling for failing to issue a  Coastal Development Permit.

“With this agreement, we are finally able to put this unfortunate issue behind us and focus our complete attention on other City priorities,” Mayor Allan Alifano said in a prepared statement.

 “Although we carefully considered challenging the court’s opinion on the Coastal Development Permit, it became clear that an appeal would have exposed the City to even greater risk and considerably more in legal fees. As a result, the City Council decided that settling the case was the right course of action for the City of Half Moon Bay.”


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Mike from HMB August 23, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Has there ever been a more dysfunctional government than Half Moon Bay. Eighteen million dollar lawsuit, officials regularly embezzling funds, fines and judgments regualrly levied against the town.. On the application to run for office in Half Moon Bay, are the following two checkboxes required to be checked? "I have in the past or will in the future embezzle funds." "I will do all in my power to harrass citizens to have them sue us and regularly ignore state statues to be sure we are fined or face further legal judgments."
George Muteff August 23, 2012 at 07:47 PM
You will get no argument from me on the City's seemingly endless well of and for litigation, but I do have a question on part of your comments: "...officials regularly embezzling funds...". Really? And who and what might you be referring to there?
Mike from HMB August 26, 2012 at 08:40 PM
1) A former Half Moon Bay Police officer is facing felony embezzlement charges for allegedly stealing more than $5,000 from the officers’ union bank account. The alleged crime occurred while Askia Mohammad Johnson was on the Half Moon Bay Police force. Johnson, also known as A.J. Johnson, was serving as president of the Half Moon Bay Police Officers’ Association in 2008 when he allegedly began using the union’s debit card to make dozens of personal purchases, prosecutors say. 2) Farm Bureau, Beautification Committee lost at least $360,000 Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival and San Mateo County Farm Bureau funds were embezzled. Records show deceased Half Moon Bay official stole money Jack Olsen may have stolen more than $199,000 from the Half Moon Bay Beautification Committee—in addition to $160,000 that is missing from the San Mateo County Farm Bureau, By Julia Scott - Published: 3/8/11


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