Wednesday Apr 22 2009
Lawyer claims case dismissed in Ollar-Burris matter
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
County disagrees, says not true
A strange twist emerged Wednesday involving a complicated Placer County lawsuit targeting former planning commissioner Michelle Ollar-Burris and others. Brigit Barnes, an attorney for land planner George Wasley issued a press release Wednesday afternoon stating that the case against her client had been dismissed. Wasley is listed among the defendants in a lawsuit filed by the county that includes Ollar-Burris. The lawsuit alleges those involved conspired in a lot-splitting scheme that possibly bilked the county out of $4 million. A call for comment by the Journal to Placer County counsel was met with surprise when Valerie Flood, supervising deputy attorney, said the case had not been dismissed. Flood said the county plans to file an amended complaint, for which they have 30 days to do so from an April 9 court ruling, and continue with their lawsuit. Flood explained that the defense won a motion, but it did not result in a dismissal “and we don’t anticipate a dismissal on George Wasley.” “We’ll be filing an amended complaint to flesh out some of the allegations,” Flood said. “We fully expect it to just keep moving forward.” When contacted by the Journal, Barnes said the judge had issued a ruling and if the county does not respond with an amended complaint, then she can file a motion for dismissal. Barnes also sent The Journal a court copy of the judge’s decision. The tentative ruling stated that the plaintiff, who is the county, “has failed to allege fraud with sufficient particularity.” Barnes said if the county chooses to amend the complaint, “they better be very careful what they allege.” “We’ve been through two years of discover now and they know and I know they have no case against George Wasley,” Barnes said. Barnes said it would be an “abuse of their obligations to the law” if the county amends their complaint. Flood said the county stands by its investigation. She added that Wasley, as well as other defendants in the case, have pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify for fear of criminal charges. “We actually haven’t heard his side of the story officially,” Flood said. “Even without his side of the story, we have quite a bit of information. We’re still in the discover phase of the case and because of the defendants taking the Fifth Amendment, we’re not anywhere near going to trial yet.” Ollar-Burris is accused of conspiring with Grass Valley consultant George Wasley and Sacramento developer and attorney Thomas Van Horne to subdivide several lots without going through a final subdivision map process. A final map process is more costly than the parcel maps approved for the properties in question. Ollar-Burris was unavailable for comment as of press time. Specifically, the county lawsuit charges that the three violated the state Subdivision Map Act, county planning ordinance and state business and professions code. Last year, the county hired special counsel Richard Crabtree to investigate the matter at a cost of $130,000 to taxpayers. That number does not include the considerable time and effort county staff has put into the case that so far has moved very slowly. In its discovery, the county estimated the cost that the land developers in the suit avoided by not following property rules is about $4 million, according to statement from Anthony La Bouff, Placer County Counsel in an August Journal report. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at email@example.com or post a comment.