The City of Manassas Park has been trying to negotiate a settlement with David Ruttenberg, as any municipality would be wise to do when faced with litigation. Negotiations don’t necessarily mean that one side or the other believes it’s position is weak, but sometimes a negotiated settlement has economic or other advantages that are worth serious consideration. I’ve learned about the current semi-settlement proposal by the City of Manassas Park, and it’s clearly something that the citizens need to be aware of. It is blackmail:
1. Your buyer gets the Conditional Use Permit
2. You get the shorter of six months or the date the new buyer wants to move in before you have to leave.
3. You get peace.
4. You drop the 4th Circuit appeal against the City individuals (but not the City itself).
5. You halt all internet and other media attacks.
Point four desrves first mentinon. In exchange for Manassas Park’s “generous offer”, Dave Ruttenberg is asked to drop from his lawsuit the named individuals — Mayor Frank Jones, Chief of Police Evans and a few others, but not the city itself. The mayor and council are apparently fine about the city facing a five million dollar lawsuit, but they can’t possibly tolerate themselves being held personally responsible for the actions they took on the city’s behalf. Frank Jones wants the city to bear the entire burden of his malfeasance, and to walk away without personal consequences. I’m sure the voters will be pleased with their leadership knowing how cowardly and self-centered that leadership is.
The first point is almost a bald admission that Dave’s conditional use permit has been held hostage to this point. And sight-unseen, the new buyer will be guaranteed he will be granted one? The responsibility of the council is to grant these permits as a matter of course provided the application is in order. This “offer” certainly raises questions about whether the city council has discharged this obligation responsibly, as well as the dedication the council is likely to demonstrate in meeting this responsibility in the future. Apparently there are more important considerations for the council in granting conditional use permits on the basis of the applications themselves. Because of the unceasing official harassment and patently illegal behavior levied by officials of Manassas Park, Dave Ruttenberg has lost his house, his investment properties, most of his life savings and is in serious financial straits. Maintaining Rack & Roll as a business without an ABC permit is not a profitable position, so David has been trying to sell his business. The city has been scaring off potential buyers by putting Dave’s conditional use permit in jeopardy, but the first component of the latest settlement offer is a threat to continute holding any potential sale hostage unless David Ruttenberg plays ball their way. How considerate.
The second point in the offer is that Dave Ruttenberg would get up to six months to sell his business “before you have to leave”. This isn’t even an eminent domain seizure, as that requires some sort of legal process. In this case, the city will apparently revoke all permits on a whim, and dare Dave Ruttenberg to follow the long administrative process of appealing these decisions after the fact while his business is defunct, but still incurring lease and other financial obligations. It’s the equivalent of “get out, or else”.
The third point of the offer is just stunning: “you get peace.” If this isn’t an admission of culpability in the harassment of Dave Ruttenberg, I can’t imagine what would be. If the city council feels they have the power to bestow “peace” upon Dave Ruttenberg, they either believe they have supernatural powers, or they were the precise reason why Dave Ruttenberg saw so little peace during the past years. This is exactly like a protection racket, where organized crime would offer to “make sure nothing happens” in return for a “small payment”. Who would have imagined that the the Manassas Park City Council engaged in racketeering?
The last point of the offer is that Dave Ruttenberg “halt all internet and other media attacks”. Dave really doesn’t have the power to stop the truth from getting out there, although he played a crucial role in getting the ball rolling. Now this story is about to move from a couple of relatively obscure websites and explode onto the pages of the mainstream media for the world to see. Frank Jones can’t compel Dave Ruttenberg to stop this story from getting out, but I’m sure he wishes he could.
Citizens of Manassas Park, your city is apparently run by something that closely resembles organized crime syndicate, only lead by a coward. You might want to do something about this. And David, this might be one of those times when the BVBL trademark phrase “bite me” can be properly applied. I think Frank Jones and the Manassas Park City Council have earned it.
UPDATE: I’ve caused some confusion by not making it clear than the quotes used in this were from David Ruttenberg’s attorney Mark Moorstein and not directly from Manassas Park’s attorney John Wilburn. I believe that Mr. Moorstein accurately represented the offer, and has a professional responsibility to accurately transmit information from opposing counsel to his client. Unless Mr. Moorstein made some sort of error, which is terribly unlikely for someone with over thirty years of experience, I strongly believe the settlement offer I’ve detailed here corresponds precisely with the offer from the City of Manassas Park. I can’t fathom any circumstance where this offer has been misrepresented in any way absent what would seem to be misconduct from someone involved, of which there is absolutely no indication whatsoever to the best of my knowledge.
UPDATE 2 (2/28/07): The court ruled on Ruttenberg’s appeal of the denial of the Conditional Use Permit, and Dave Ruttenberg won on all counts. I’m thrilled that this outrageous settlement offer died an ignoble death and Dave got at least some of the justice he has so long deserved. The battle continues…
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