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New Cases of Interest - June 9, 2014
Schwarzburd v. Kensington Police Protection & Community Services District Board (2014) 225 Cal.App.4th 1345. A public entity board and individual board members were named in a petition (subsequently amended) for writ of mandate contending that the board failed to give proper advance notice of business items and that the board impermissibly approved a compensation package for the General Manager/Chief of Police, with the writ seeking an order directing the board to vacate its resolution to increase Mr. Harman's compensation package as well as an order to enjoin a merit bonus payment which in the writ was characterized as a retroactive pay increase. The district and the individual board members filed a SLAPP motion which the trial court denied, finding that the petition did not arise out of the defendant's protected expressive activity. The court of appeal reversed as to the three individual defendants, but affirmed as to the board as a whole.
The Court of Appeal found that the petitioner's claims did not fall within the CCP §425(17)(b) public interest exception to the SLAPP statute because the claims did not operate to enforce an important right affecting the public interest, nor if the claims were successful would a significant benefit be conferred on the general public or a large class of persons. The court, however did find that private enforcement as to the individual board members was not necessary because petitioners had an adequate remedy in suing the district directly to challenge the validity of the compensation package at issue. As to the individual board members, the suit did trigger CCP §425.16(e)(2) and (4) because the board members were sued on how they voted and expressed themselves at the board meeting. As to that portion of the suit, the court concluded that the petitioners could not demonstrate a probability of prevailing on their petition in that the petition lacked merit because the board had not violated its own policy and procedures manual as alleged.