Possible deal could cost city $125,000

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Details have emerged from a possible settlement agreement between open government advocates and the city of Chula Vista in a lawsuit regarding the appointment of Councilman Steve Miesen.

An agreement signed by Chula Vista resident Chris Shilling, who challeneged the council appointment, on March 24 shows that Miesen will get to fulfill his term on the City Council. In exchange the city must amend its municipal code within 45 days of the settlement to adopt and incorporate the city’s interim appointment process for the council and various commissions.

The interim process, which will become permanent, includes publicly interviewing any and all candidates for a vacant seat on the council and commissions.

In his lawsuit, Shilling wanted Miesen’s removal from the council and argued that Miesen’s appointment was unlawful.

The city and Coast Law Group LLP, which represents Shilling, still need to sign the settlement for it to become finalized.

“There is no agreement yet,” said Senior Assistant City Attorney Bart Miesfeld. “We are still in discussions and negotiations for a settlement.”

The city will have to pay $125,000 in attorney fees to Coast Law Group LLP.

Shilling has also agreed to drop his lawsuit and a public records request seeking emails and all electronic communication from the mayor and council members about the appointment.

Lastly, the city will release a joint statement with each party free to make additional public statements, including statements to the press, regarding the statement or lawsuit or both.

Shilling and San Diegans for Open Government sued the city of Chula Vista on Feb. 23, 2015, for allegedly violating the Ralph M. Brown Act – the state’s open meeting law – with the process used to appointment Miesen on the City Council. Shilling contended that council members and the mayor held a serial meeting with the city clerk by emailing their list of finalists to the city clerk.

Miesen was appointed to the seat left vacant by then-Councilwoman Mary Salas, who was elected mayor in November 2014. Forty-four people applied for the open seat and only eight reached the final round, including Miesen.
Casillas Salas said she could not comment because the settlement has not been finalized so the case is still in litigation.

Possible deal could cost city $125,000