The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) board of directors will discuss the district’s legal battles at its first meeting of Spring Quarter tonight – troubles that are proving to be no walk in the park for the beleaguered district.
Logan Green, chair of the IVRPD board of directors, said the board will also be considering a proposal to rename Isla Vista’s parks at the meeting, which starts at 8 p.m. at the IVRPD office at 961 Embarcadero del Mar. IVRPD General Manager Derek Johnson said the directors will enter closed session after the meeting to confer with legal counsel about costs the IVRPD incurred during its recent legal dispute with the local chapter of the Libertarian Party, as well as the district’s response to a $25 million negligence claim filed against the IVRPD by the family of Emily King, a woman who was injured in a fall from the I.V. cliffs.
The Libertarian Party filed its lawsuit against the IVRPD in January for allegedly violating the Brown Act, which requires the meetings of government agencies to be open to the public. The lawsuit initially included 12 counts against the IVRPD, although a judge recently ruled that the IVRPD was only guilty on two of the counts.
Johnson declined to comment on the outcome of the lawsuit, but he said the IVRPD board would be reaching an official position on the lawsuit and its resolution during the closed session after tonight’s meeting.
“The [settlement of the] Libertarian lawsuit depends on what action the board takes,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the closed session would also include discussion of the claim filed by King’s mother, which also names several other parties – including Santa Barbara County and UCSB – as responsible for allegedly failing to install adequate safety measures along the cliff in at least one lot on Del Playa Drive.
According to the agenda for the meeting, the claim is for “injuries to Emily King that occurred on or about September 19, 2005 in the 6700 block of Del Playa in Isla Vista. It claims damages of 25 million dollars.”
In the agenda, Johnson said he recommends that the board enter closed discussion on the matter due to the sensitive nature of the issue.
“It is my opinion that the park district has significant exposure to litigation, based on existing facts and circumstances, including the claim filed by Michele King discussed above,” Johnson said. “It is also my opinion that public discussion of this claim would prejudice the position of the park district.”
Green said the IVRPD Finance Committee will present information at the meeting regarding the redistribution of funds to help pay the district’s legal fees.
“Basically, in the reallocation, we’re scraping a couple thousand dollars from a handful of different accounts. We’re taking a couple thousand dollars out of utilities and we’re taking a couple thousand from elections,” Green said. “It’s a shuffling of money from some accounts so we have some spare change to cover the cost of legal fees.”
Besides the IVRPD’s legal issues, Green said, the open session of the meeting will include consideration of a park-renaming project.
“I think the most fun and important issue we’re going to talk about is renaming the parks to better reflect community desires and interests,” Green said.
Johnson said board members will identify which parks they want to rename and discuss a plan proposed by IVRPD staff for the execution of the renaming project.
“The policy [suggested by the IVRPD] calls for a process for renaming parks and comes up with some criteria for renaming parks. It should be the geographical location, an outstanding feature, some historical event that happened in the park, or an organization or an individual who contributed to the park.”
Green said the IVRPD is considering putting up suggestion boxes in I.V. restaurants and setting up a page on its website to involve the community in coming up with park names that are “as off the wall as possible.”
The meeting agenda said the renaming project has no short-term expenses but could ultimately cost the IVRPD approximately $500 per park to redo signs, brochures, maps and other information.
Green said the IVRPD Finance Committee is in the middle of finalizing next year’s budget, and will also present some of its preliminary work tonight.