EXCLUSIVE: Explosive Demand Letter the City Refuses To Release
1/27/16 – During last night’s council session, City manager Michael Rock along with City Attorney Anthony Taylor, refused a request by 60-year Banning resident Frank Burgess to publicly read a demand letter by his attorney into the record. None of the City council members seemed to be aware of the existence of this letter nor its content.
HERE IS THE LETTER THAT THE CITY REFUSES TO RELEASE :
SUMMARY AND PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS
While it is too soon to assess the full impact of this demand, we can confirm that this letter demands that the City of Banning be broken up in several (5) voting districts, each one of which will furnish one candidate for City council. This will make it possible to get elected to the City council without even a single vote from Banning’s largest voting block, Sun Lakes.
Currently, the Sun Lakes gated community holds by far the largest voting block in Banning with 4,201 of the 12,171 registered voters. Candidates from outside of Sun Lakes have no physical access to the gated community and are restricted from campaigning there in ways they can campaign in the remainder of the City.
Recently Sun Lakes has even eliminated their traditional TV debate of the council candidates (see 2014 elections), which they traditionally broadcast on their proprietary TV channel.. Presumably this was done because Sun Lakes management (i.e.George Moyer) did not want Sun Lakes residents to hear all candidates speak. This maneuver gave an unfair advantage to Sun Lakes president George Moyer as candidate for City council, while candidate Jerry Westholder was being denied equal access to the Sun Lakes voting block. Largely unknown to Sun Lakes residents, Jerry Westholder lost the election.
WITHHOLDING THE DOCUMENT – A GOOD IDEA ?
It appears that the City manager’s attempt to suppress the demand letter is not only ineffective, but its suppression seems to make little sense. We cannot think of any legal or tactical advantage the City would gain by withholding the document.
Just because a document’s release may be exempt because it has a potential of “pending litigation” , this does not mean that the City is obligated to withhold it. Rather, the City must always weigh the interest of the public to know about the issues, against its interest to protect their legal position. Again, in this case no legal advantage is apparent from withholding the document.
Even more so, not providing the City council members with the letter, not even in closed session, is nothing short of unconscionable.
CAN THE CITY PREVAIL ?
There are some factual errors cited in the demand letter. Over the last 15 years the City of Banning had a Mayor that was hispanic – Brenda Salas.
However, despite this factual inaccuracy, we believe that the City of Banning has only a very slim chance, if any, to prevail in this dispute. The demographics of Sun Lakes as Banning’s largest voting block will make it very likely that re-districting will become a realty, no matter if the City council likes it or not.
In this context it is also noteworthy that the Banning School District was previously forced to re-district, given the same scenario.
In short, we believe that the City has no reasonable chance of prevailing, regardless of how many hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars they spend on this litigation.
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