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Supervisors OK $50K more for Ollar-Burris case

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County supervisors have invested another $50,000 for outside legal help in the civil court case against a former planning commissioner that alleges illegal lot splitting. Supervisors decided in closed session Tuesday to spend up to $50,000 in county funds on the court case and contract with Chico attorney Richard Crabtree. The county has already spent $130,000 on contracts with Crabtree’s office related to the case. The county is alleging that former Planning Commissioner Michelle Ollar-Burris of Auburn conspired with Grass Valley consultant George Wasley and Sacramento attorney Thomas Van Horne to split lots that should have gone through a more costly subdivision process. Ollar-Burris vehemently denies the allegations and vowed Wednesday to keep on fighting in court, no matter how long it takes.. “I haven’t done anything,” Ollar-Burris said. “The county has every single scrap of paper on every single transaction I’ve been involved in. They have my banking records. And they still haven’t found anything. What they allege is untrue.” Supervisors voted unanimously in November 2007 to pursue the court case and Tuesday’s decision sends a strong signal to the Ollar-Burris, Wasley and Van Horne that the county is resolved to move the case toward trial. The original Placer County superior court case has no trial date. Ed Duckers, Van Horne’s attorney, said he estimates that if it moves that far along without being dismissed, could be heard in late 2011. Duckers said county attorneys are continuing to take depositions from people who aren’t named in the suit but took part in legal lot splits. “They’re methodically blowing up the county’s case,” Duckers said. “The county has a theory they were involved in arm’s length transactions – and they’re correcting the county’s extreme misunderstandings.” Duckers said that if the case does go to trial, many of the complaints could be summarily adjudicated before then. “It’s surprising that they’re spending more taxpayers’ money on this folly,” he said. County Counsel Anthony La Bouff said Wednesday that the county and attorneys for Wasley and Ollar-Burris were in federal court in Sacramento last week for a hearing on whether to continue a case filed by the two. Filed late last year, that civil action alleges the county violated Wasley and Ollar-Burris’s constitutional rights. Brigit Barnes, Wasley’s attorney, said the county’s request to dismiss the case was denied but the judge ordered any further actions stayed until after resolution of the superior court case in Placer County. Barnes said she has heard the superior court case would take at least a year to go to trial. “We’re hoping to start moving this case toward trial,” Barnes said. “So far, we haven’t seen any corroboration of the allegations in the complaint.”