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Lawsuit moves onto public battleground

February 10, 2012

After months of closed sessions and behind-the-scenes brinksmanship, the battle between the Town of Mammoth and the Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition moved into the open this week.
 
Lawyers for MLAA said: “The Town has completely failed to follow through on (its) representations. Its conduct smacks of bad faith.”
 
The email from MLAA attorneys reached the press, uncharacteristically, and earned a quick response from Marianna Marysheva-Martinez, the town’s financial advisor who is the point person on the case, along with Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht.
 
“As part of those negotiations, the Town has made full, complete and ongoing disclosures of all of its financial and operational information to MLLA,” she wrote in an email.
 
“Frequent closed session discussions have taken place among Town Council members and staff to develop and present to MLLA payment proposals that the Town could afford, keeping in mind its obligation to provide essential municipal services to the community and visitors.”
 
On Tuesday, Wilbrecht informed the Town of Mammoth Recreation Commission of the latest round in the slugfest and suggested as the two sides move apart, mediation might be the next option.
 
According to Marysheva-Martinez, the events have proceeded as such:
 
“On Dec. 1, the Town made a multi-million settlement offer to MLLA—an amount that the Town currently feels it cannot afford to pay, in light of the worsened fiscal conditions since early December. On Dec. 14, 2011, MLLA requested an even larger payment.
 
“On January 19,” she continued, “the Town withdrew its Dec. 1 offer, writing to MLLA: ‘In light of current fiscal realities, the Town has determined that it needs to more closely analyze and assess pertinent issues with financial implications, including the ongoing efforts to reach a resolution with MLLA. The Town has begun the development of a global restructuring plan, which will address the various fiscal issues impacting the Town.’
 
“The Town’s Jan. 19 letter further stated that another settlement offer would be presented to MLLA after Feb. 1. Since then, the Town has continued to work on a sustainable plan to both pay MLLA and satisfy its other fiscal obligations. Frequent closed session discussions continued.
 
“In the meantime, it is MLLA that decided to abruptly stop settlement discussions with the Town,” Marysheva-Martinez wrote.
 
“To the Town’s surprise and dismay, MLLA filed a petition with the State Court on Feb. 2 (and served the Town on Feb. 6) to demand payment of the full $42 million legal judgment. 
 
“MLLA then went to the local media and accused the Town of bad faith negotiations. All of this was done without an advance notice to the Town, or any indication that MLLA was about to cease the settlement process. 
 
“Sadly but clearly, MLLA is the one acting in bad faith.
 
“The Town will, after careful consideration of its obligations to the citizens, businesses and taxpayers of the Town, submit to MLLA in the near future another settlement proposal that the Town can afford consistent with its stewardship of the public’s funds.”
 
Meanwhile, on the other side, MLLA attorneys said: “It bears reminding the Town that after the Town lost on appeal, it was MLLA that reached out to initiate resolution discussions, and indicated a willingness to enter into a standstill (negotiation process). 
 
“MLLA has extended that standstill seven times. MLLA representatives made several trips to the Town in order to work with the Town’s staff in order to identify the Town’s core needs and better grasp the Town’s financials, all with a goal toward a consensual resolution.
 
“The Town has completely failed to follow through on the representations.
 
“Please be advised that MLLA will not be agreeing to any further extensions of the standstill agreement when it expires on Feb. 1.”

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