In May, a Shasta County Superior Court judge ruled in response to a lawsuit by the Redding Rancheria that the city’s sale of a small portion of Bechelli Lane more than two years ago was illegal. The land sale created a significant and foreseeable barrier to the Tribe’s planned casino development, by blocking road access to Tribal land.
Council members have been mostly silent about the deal since the Judge’s ruling. But during a July 19 council meeting, council member Erin Resner told fellow councilors, in informal remarks towards the end of the meeting, that she feels it’s important to offer the public additional transparency and information on the court’s ruling, and the city’s mistakes, as soon as the time is right.
Reminding the Council that she called for the same kind of public transparency last fall in regards to discussions about a proposed sale of prime riverfront city land, Resner asked her fellow council members to consider a public workshop to openly discuss the ruling after the legal process is complete. Resner suggested that such a discussion should include what she referred to as the “three procedural errors that occurred” during the land sale as well as what the potential remedies for the situation are, moving forward.
Click play and slide the scroll bar forward to minute 2:18 to hear the council’s discussion of Resner’s request to consider public discussions of the casino land access sale.
City council members and the city’s manager and attorney have come under public scrutiny for the land sale, after a damning ruling from Shasta County Superior Court judge, Tamara Wood. Some details of the Bechelli land sale, which became public through the court ruling, indicate similarities between that process and the proposed riverfront land sale Resner referred to during her comments.
A discussion of that proposal was originally scheduled for a closed session of the council in September, but after Shasta Scout revealed the prime riverfront location, listed only by parcel number on the agenda, Resner suggested to the council that the proposal should be discussed publicly instead. The council voted to move the item to a public council session agenda and hold a series of public workshops on the proposed sale. The proposal to buy the land was withdrawn in April after public workshops and surveys indicated significant public opposition to the sale.
Resner’s request for transparency on the casino access land sale comes as she continues her run for Shasta County supervisor. When details of the court ruling about the Bechelli land sale were released just prior to the county primary in June, her opponent, Kevin Crye, used that information to highlight the city’s secretive land sale, calling out Resner’s participation.
Since Resner’s proposal was raised informally, it will have to be brought back for a formal vote as an item on a future council agenda, but all four of Resner’s fellow council members said Tuesday they agreed with her proposal to discuss the land sale in a future public setting, despite significant disagreement on the timing of the public discussion. Both Michael Dacquisto and Mark Mezzano advocated for publicly discussing the land sale soon, while Julie Winter, Kristen Schreder, and Resner said they were uncomfortable going against the advice of the city’s attorney by discussing the sale prior to the completion of all aspects of the litigation.
While the original ruling was issued in May, the terms of how the city will address the illegal land sale, for example by vacating the sale and paying the Rancheria’s legal fees, are still pending. City Attorney Barry DeWalt, who was also involved in the illegal land sale, explained to the council that he has advised against publicly discussing the matter prior to the conclusion of litigation because such discussions could lead to a negative impact on the city’s settlement terms or any appeal of a ruling in the matter. He also said legal ethics suggest silence for now, because conversations about the matter could influence the judge in the case.
But Dacquisto, who is also a lawyer, and who cast the lone dissenting vote against the decision to vacate and surplus the land, disagreed with DeWalt, saying “I think if you’re going to do it you should do it now. I’m not sure why waiting till the end of the case accomplishes anything, I think if the goal is to be transparent then why not do it now?”
Dacquisto, who has not yet announced whether he will seek reelection to the City Council this fall, reminded the council that he’s already publicly discussed the court’s ruling on the land sale on a local radio show, and that the all council members have been given a public invitation by the show’s host to do the same. That prompted an angry response from Schreder, who voted to vacate and surplus the land in 2020. She said she’s open to having the conversation at the appropriate time but doesn’t appreciate being “challenged” to “justify” her vote on the radio.
“I don’t think we should go out and advertise and pontificate, explain, this is what I thought or what I didn’t think . . . and because I’m not an attorney doesn’t mean I did the wrong thing either,” Schreder told Dacquisto. “So I’m really opposed, if you can hear it in my voice, opposed, of going out there too far in advance of when a judge is going to make a ruling that will be the next step in deciding what the city council’s options are . . .”
Mezzano, who was not on the council when the land sale occurred, also weighed in, saying that he felt now would be the appropriate time to discuss the ruling but that he didn’t want to jeopardize the city’s legal case and was willing to wait to discuss the matter after litigation finalizes. “The day of reckoning will come,” Mezzano said, referring to when they public receives the court’s final ruling on the litigation, “and we will all have to answer.”
Schreder responded to his statement with visible anger, telling Mezzano “I’m perfectly fine to explain all of my votes for the last twenty-five years. . . . whatever happened to judging everyone when you have all the facts, from your law enforcement background? The day of reckoning will come,” Schreder continued, “when all the facts are in, and I’ll be perfectly fine having this robust conversation, when all the facts are in, at the appropriate time.”
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