The Manassas City Council decided to settle with the ERC tonight and provide them and the plaintiffs they represented in a frivolous lawsuit with a settlement of about seven hundred thousand dollars. ERC’s take on this extortion-by-attorney, supplemented by contractual bonuses from the plaintiffs, will no doubt be used to finance another shakedown of another locality. The next group of taxpayers that get targeted by these miscreants will have Manassas City to partially thank for their turn as the next victims of our litigous society. Had someone else stood up to this abuse before, Manassas City might not have been in this position, but because Manassas City caved in, this cycle of abuse by lawsuit will continue.
The Manassas City Council has made pretty much no effort at all to explain to the taxpayers why it’s supposedly wiser to pay off these vultures with public funds rather than fight it out in the aftermath of the Department of Justice finally abandoning most of their causes of acton in this case. We don’t know whether insurance is supposed to cover this (to later be recouped through higher liability premiums), or whether the tight budget gets another hit with an immediate additional expense. We don’t know how much the city has paid in defending this lawsuit over the past two years, nor do we have any indication of what the precise legal claims are that the ERC is pursuing. Taxpayers got about a day’s notice that the council would consider this, and the proposed settlement amount was never made public prior to the council meeting. Excuse this commentator for being a little suspicious here, because everything about this proposed settlement has been absolutely and utterly opaque.
When government at any level operates without any effective opportunity for citizens to even understand what decision is being contemplated, much less exercise any oversight of their elected officials, it is an invitation for the worst of abuses and poor decision-making. Ask yourself how many other proposed city expenditures running north of a half-million dollars get quietly placed on an agenda without any details and then acted on within days. Can’t recall this happening, as I? That should be more than enough to raise some significant suspicions. This action is unprecedented in both the process used, as well as the result.
Councilman Marc Aveni was the only council member to vote against this. Kudos to him for standing up for at least some semblence of responsible process here, and refusing to give into the extortion that facilitates the endless line of legal abuses that visited Manassas, and will undoubtably visit somewhere else very soon. Too bad his colleagues couldn’t even ensure their consituents understood what was going on before ramming this decision through.
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