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Manassas Park’s “Generous Offer”

By Greg L | 29 January 2007 | Rack & Roll Scandal | 17 Comments

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.
In exchange:
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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17 Comments

  1. AWCheney said on 30 Jan 2007 at 12:04 am:
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    Do any of you Manassas Park voters, and non-voters, still have ANY illusion that your elected officials truly have YOUR best interests at heart?

  2. Loudoun Insider said on 30 Jan 2007 at 12:12 am:
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    RICO, anyone?

  3. AWCheney said on 30 Jan 2007 at 12:14 am:
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    How about RECALL PETITION, anyone?

  4. Batson D. Belfrey said on 30 Jan 2007 at 7:18 am:
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    Greg,

    Since most of this transpired, there have been some changes on MP council. Are the newer councilmen culpable?

  5. Greg L said on 30 Jan 2007 at 9:21 am:
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    Yes, we have a couple of new council members. Bill Treuting was Mayor during the earlier go around with a gambling referendum, and I believe councilman Miller had a deep relationship with Colonial Downs to the point he ended up with an agreement with them to run the food & beverage operations at the betting facility. Although the players change from time to time, they’re pretty much the same bunch of insiders.

    That might go a long way to explaining why the city’s republican committee has had a leadership change but absolutely no change in behavior. You still don’t see publicly announced meetings, you can’t reach the chairman, and it still looks more like a secret society than a unit of a political party. Perhaps they don’t want to have real political parties in Manassas Park, as that might mean the insiders who control city government would have to risk their stranglehold on power.

  6. Had to Say said on 30 Jan 2007 at 10:22 am:
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    If someone wants to help Dave out I would suggest your readers start frequenting Rack N Roll. Lets do an in your face to the MP City council and get Daves business going again!

    Tell everyone about his business and to patronize it. I can’t believe he has held in there this long. That might have been the councils goal, out last him, out spend him and make his life miserable so he would go away.

    Keep hanging in there Dave!!!

    Any TV news stations picking up on this yet?

  7. Greg L said on 30 Jan 2007 at 11:37 am:
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    I like the idea of folks making sure to go to Rack & Roll and shoot a game or two of pool. I promised my soon-to-be five year old daughter that if she behaved well this week I might take her there so she can play for a little bit. Having been there a few times both during the day and the evening, I can say it’s a clean, well run place that is very different than the picture that some have tried to paint. If I’m eager to take my little girl there, that should say a lot about what the place is actually like.

    As for additional media coverage, I’d hope there will be some soon, but I understand how difficult this story is. A reporter could potentially make a big career move here with an in-depth story about this scandal, but producers/editors might be pretty reluctant to run a story that might end up damaging their ability to speak with elected officials. I suspect there’s a fair amount of pressure on the MJM to not run something on this, as Alex Grandos’ story has been ready to go for at least a week and hasn’t gotten the OK from the editorial board as far as I know.

  8. AWCheney said on 30 Jan 2007 at 1:58 pm:
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    I’ve always heard it called Manassas Park Shopping Center, Greg…ever since it was built. :-)

  9. AWCheney said on 30 Jan 2007 at 2:07 pm:
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    Whoops!…wrong comment string. My previous comment was supposed to go under “Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics.”

  10. mjh said on 31 Jan 2007 at 2:11 pm:
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    This is really amazing stuff…I suppose local government in the area feels that they can operate with impunity in the long shadow of corruption and deceit cast by the Federal Gov in DC.

    Greg, thanks for reporting on this. I have been trying to drum up some interest from my friends in the journalism field, but so far no luck.

    Any idea whether Dave’s father might be interested in obtaining the support / assistance of some GMU Law students on a pro bono basis? I’m in the night program, and would be extremely interested in helping out this summer.

  11. Greg L said on 31 Jan 2007 at 3:27 pm:
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    Sounds like a great idea. I’ll pass it on.

  12. Golem said on 1 Feb 2007 at 9:13 am:
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    The Ruttenberg family has spent an enormous amount of money on this fight. The various liltigations and legal proceeding so far have included the initial ABC hearing, an appeal from the initial ABC decision to the ABC Board in Richmond, an appeal, still pending, to the Prince William Circuit Court from the ABC in Richmond, the city council proceeding on the CUP, the Board of Zoning Appeals on the CUP, an appeal, still pending, to the Prince William Circuit Court involving the City Council and Board of Zoning Appeals decisions on the CUP, the suit alleging, inter alia, a unconstitutional taking of their property in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and an appeal, pending, from the decision of the Eastern District to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. We are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    The Ruttenbergs will be the first to tell you that this fight, in the first instance, was undertaken to try to recover for David everything that he worked for over the last 20 years, i.e., since he graduated from college. But there is another reason they refuse to give in. What happened, and is still happening, in Manassas Park is a direct attack on the fundamental principals Americans believe they live by. We cannot stand by and allow a power structure, any power structure, to use deceit (fabrication of evidence) and lies (perjury) in order to further their own power (Manassas Park police vs. David Ruttenberg) and/or greed (the Colonial Downs mess). The Ruttenbergs consider that their fight against abusive power (fascism?) is a solemn obligation to the nation that protected and nurished their immigrant grand and great grandparents. They are by no means sure they are going to win (see my post on “due process of law”) but if any of the cretins of Manassas Park officialdom think the Ruttenbergs are going to quit, FUGETABOUIT!

    The Ruttenbergs want to thank Greg, Radley, Anke and the many others who understand and have taken up this battle. Any additional help is welcome.

  13. ACW said on 1 Feb 2007 at 10:50 am:
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    Do we know if he accepted this offer yet? I hope not-extortion indeed.

  14. mjh said on 1 Feb 2007 at 11:49 am:
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    Greg,

    GMU SL student here again.

    Are you able to contact me if the Ruttenbergs would like pro bono assistance?

    I believe you have my email address, if they are interested, please let me know. I’d be happy to approach the GMU SL clinic with the idea.

    Best,

  15. Jerri said on 1 Feb 2007 at 8:50 pm:
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    Offers of settlement are generally not admissable in court. However, if I were the attorney on this case, I’d try to figure out a way to get around the general rule.

  16. TC said on 2 Feb 2007 at 1:57 am:
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    Counter offer.

    I’ll take the 5 mill check!

    I will leave within 6 months or the sale of what is left of my business is closed.

    In exchange I will not send all details to Leistoppers and or KC Johnson for a really in depth destruction of your personal and public lives!

    Oh I understand the some guy named Nifong will soon be available to coach “stupid” elected officials on proper behavior for elected officials. He will not be able to represent himself as an attorney since he will be stripped of his BAR creds, but a brand new career at age 59 was all part of his plan.

    I will never stop talking about the dangers of runaway politicians, police, and other REAL criminal elements that are pervasive within the USA. Since the story of my forced demise is already public information there is nothing I could do to stop that information from remaining in the public domain.

    *******************

    Dave end this thing!

    good luck

  17. Mark Moorstein said on 8 Feb 2007 at 3:20 pm:
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    Just to make this absolutely clear, I have never provided, directly or indirectly, any comments regarding any settlement to anyone other than my clients. Obviously, settlement discussions cannot proceed in a public forum. Further, I can’t comment on the accuracy or the innaccuracy of the reporting or speculate on how any information attributed to me appeared in this blog, other than to deny categorically that it was with my knowledge or consent. I hope this clarifies this matter. Thanks.

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