Court dismisses eight out of nine Causes in the Golden Eagle/Mabee Trust lawsuit
The RSF Association Board of Directors released the following press release Dec. 14:
“On Dec. 8, 2015, the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, dismissed eight out of nine Causes of Action in a lawsuit filed by Golden Eagle Land Investment LP and the Mabee Family Trust against the Rancho Santa Fe Association. The lawsuit alleged that the Rancho Santa Fe Association Board violated their rights as owners under the Association Bylaws and California’s Open Meeting Act, and that the Board further breeched its fiduciary duty in the process.
“The lawsuit involves the large parcel of land on the northeast corner of Calzada del Bosque and Via de la Valle. Once intended for a large horse facility by Larry Mabee, the proposed plan for the property is to change the land use to a higher-density “step-down housing” development known as Rancho Librado.
“The Association sent a letter in May to the County of San Diego asking the county to enforce the existing General Plan “at this time.” The court found the Association’s letter to have been constitutionally protected speech and the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of prevailing at trial.
“In response to the lawsuit, the Association filed a special “Anti-Slapp” motion to strike the entire complaint. An Anti-Slapp motion provides for the defendant (the Association, in this case) to seek a quick dismissal of meritless causes of action that are based on constitutionally protected activity, including free speech and expression on issues of public interest. Once dismissed, these causes of action can not be amended or re-filed.
“The court did not dismiss the first cause of action for alleged violation of the Open Meeting Act, ruling that board meetings are not protected activity. The plaintiffs asserted that the Rancho Santa Fe Association Board action was not sufficiently identified on the noticed agenda and was in violation of the “Open Meeting Act” in the Civil Code. In making this finding, the judge did not rule on whether this cause of action has any merit, merely that it is not subject to this type of motion to strike.
“The RSF Board believes that the entire complaint should have been dismissed, and is evaluating various options for resolving the lawsuit in its entirety.”
In response the Mabee family released the following statement:
“Overall, we are pleased with the Court’s ruling. Our main issue with the Association has always been that they violated the provisions of the Open Meeting Act and we, as Association members, were not treated fairly. The Court has found that the Association did in fact violate the Open Meeting Act in regards to the Mabee family. It was just unfortunate we were forced to take legal action to against our Board in order to force compliance with the rules.
“When we filed suit against the Association last September we published an open letter to the Community in the Review outlining the reasons for the suit. The Open Letter included the following statements:
“•The basis for the legal action is due to the fact our rights, as members of the Association, have been flagrantly violated by the Association Board. Our protections as members under the Governing Documents were ignored by the Board who has also violated provisions of the California Civil Code, including the Open Meeting Act, and their fiduciary duty to us as members.
“•The lawsuit is about the process and the rights we all have as members of the Association and as citizens of the State of California.
“•We sincerely wish we were not forced to take this drastic measure, but truly believe the Board has left us no other option but a court of law to compel them to follow the bylaws and rules and regulations of our Association and the laws of the State of California.
“The reason we filed a legal action in the first place is because we firmly believed the Association violated the Open Meeting Act, a fact now confirmed by the court. To have our project rejected by the Board, who did not even have the decency to allow us to present it to them after giving us a unanimous approval to proceed with the concept only a year earlier was not only a violation of the Act, but contrary to common decency and fair dealing. To be forced to use the Court, who agreed with us on this issue, is not only a waste of time and resources which could be much better used elsewhere, but also further proof of the Board’s apparent representation of only some of us living here in the Ranch.”