Signaling fresh activity in lingering litigation, the Chico City Council voted in closed session Tuesday night (Oct. 19) to provide legal counsel to former Councilman Karl Ory in a lawsuit filed by Chico Scrap Metal against the city three years ago.
The 6-1 vote, with Sean Morgan opposed, directs City Attorney Vince Ewing to secure an independent attorney to represent Ory in a deposition. The case—Chico Scrap Metal, Inc. v. City of Chico, filed in Dec. 2018—is scheduled to resume in Butte County Superior Court next Wednesday (Oct. 27).
“It’s been well over a month since Chico Scrap Metal served me and others asking for a deposition and documents,” Ory told the CN&R by phone today (Oct. 20). “I certainly was not prepared to enter into discussions with Chico Scrap Metal without legal representation.
“I’m relieved that they did the right thing,” he added. “I’m disappointed it took so long and a bit concerned that it had to be a political decision in the sense that they decided to take a vote on whether to represent a former council member regarding discussions while he was a council member that I think should have been automatically taken on by [a] city attorney.”
The complaint (search case 18CV03900) from Chico Scrap Metal alleges that the city improperly rezoned the facility and denied it due process in ordering it to relocate during a series of proceedings spanning more than a decade. Ory, before his reelection to the council in 2016, led a referendum effort that spurred separate litigation—City of Chico v. Move the Junkyard (case 17CV00173)—in which Chico Scrap Metal joined the city in suing Ory. The city and CSM ultimately lost that case.
Regarding the dissenting vote from Morgan, who was mayor when he was on the council, Ory said: “I’m pretty sure Sean got advice from the city attorney regarding his inappropriate remarks on KPAY [about the ongoing Warren v. City of Chico federal lawsuit], so I have to assume it’s just spite.”
Mayor Andrew Coolidge, speaking to the CN&R about Tuesday’s council meeting, did not comment about the Ory decision due to confidentiality of closed session.