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Ex-mayor, Dunsmuir await date in court » Record Searchlight Mobile

Ex-Dunsmuir Mayor Peter Arth is taking the city and four council members to court again after defense lawyers issued a second challenge to his lawsuit.

Arth’s complaint, originally filed in February and refiled in March, claims Mayor Nick Mitchell and Vice Mayor Chris Raine have conflicts of interest in water and sewer issues because of their involvement in local business.

Mitchell is the chief financial officer for Thriftway Foods and Raine, who’s also on the city’s public works committee, owns Dunsmuir Rod Co. and Burger Barn. Both earn more than $10,000 apiece from their respective business.

The Political Reform Act states a public official has a financial interest in a decision if that decision will have a different financial effect on them than the effect to the general public. That also applies if an official has an interest in a business worth more $2,000 or receives more than $500 per year from a business and a decision will affect the business.

But Mitchell and Raine have said they do not have conflicts.

Arth’s complaint also alleges three members of the council violated the state’s Brown Act by discussing a lawsuit against the city outside a council meeting.

That lawsuit alleged the previous City Council illegally enacted water and sewer rate increases.

Citizens for a Better Dunsmuir, the group that filed the suit and backed four members of the current council in the election, dropped the case in January after three votes by the City Council.

The council members deny any Brown Act violation.

Defense lawyers challenged the original complaint, prompting Arth’s attorney, David Hicks, to refile a more detailed complaint.

But defense lawyers say the amended complaint still lacks legal cause and fails to state how the city and council members violated the Brown Act and Political Reform Act.

“Under the minimal facts alleged it is not plausible to conclude that either (Mitchell or Raine) would have a conflict of interest with respect to any particular water or sewer issue,” the challenge states.

Hicks has filed oppositions to the defense’s challenges, claiming the allegations are valid.

“Defendants pick out a few phrases in the petition, creating an irrelevant target to shoot down. A straw man of sliced Swiss,” Hicks said in the opposition. “They ask the court to test their argument against their straw man instead of against the petition.”

A Siskiyou County judge will decide June 14 whether the defense’s challenges are valid.

Dunsmuir’s wallet has been hit hard recently by legal fees from the lawsuits.

City Manager Jim Lindley said Thursday the Citizens for a Better Dunsmuir lawsuit cost the city nearly $4,000 in legal fees, money the city probably won’t recoup.

Dunsmuir’s insurance carrier is handling Arth’s lawsuit, but the city already has paid nearly $3,000 in legal fees and the insurance company has likely spent a lot more, Lindley said.

“I’m sure our insurance carrier will increase our premium next year,” he said.

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About Leslie Brodie

Leslie Brodie is a reporter, writer, blogger, activist, and a religious leader in the community.

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