Spike Lynch's Billboards Wins Motion

Decision on discovery is a disappointment
for billboard opponents!

County transparency suffers a setback.

General Outdoor Advertising
San Bernardino County Superior Courthouse, San Bernardino (south facade).

Posted: January 21, 2012

      Fred Stearn, the plaintiff in a superior court action to recind the billboard permits issued for the Newberry Springs area, suffered a minor setback when superior court Judge Brian McCarville ruled against Stearn's request for discovery.

      Judge McCarville opened the January 17, 2012 hearing by denying the County of San Bernardino's request to have Fred Stearn's motion for discovery transferred to Judge Vanderfeer from whom the county apparently felt that it would receive a favorable ruling.

      The court then ruled that the court did not feel that Stearn's discovery would lead to relevant evidence.

      By his decision favoring the county of San Bernardino and General Outdoor Advertising, Judge McCarville halted Fred Stearn's attempt to acquire county transparency through depositions of the individuals involved in the county's processing of the billboard permits.

      The court will be ultimately deciding whether or not the billboard permits violated law.  Such a decision is normally based upon a review of the applicable law and of the county's administrative record.

      Stearn's motion was an attempt to enhance the administrative record before the court by including sworn depositions of county officials who were involved in the administrative record and who may hold additional information that the administrative record does not contain.

      In Judge McCarville's ruling against discovery, he may have decided not to wade through possibly hundreds of pages of depositions, figuring that the administrative record is sufficient and that the further compounding of evidence through discovery would not be necessary in making the decision before him.  Basically he must rule whether there is law against the placement of billboards and did the county improperly issue billboard permits anyway.

      Stearn now has an option of filing a writ to have the court's decision of quashing discovery overturned.  In most cases, a reviewing court will allow the trial court's ruling to stand by simply recognizing the trial court's discretion and presumed study of the issue; however, in the Stearn matter, we have the issue of a District Supervisor who was supporting the billboards who has since acknowledged numerous felonious acts and the pimping of his political influence while in office.  The natural question is did Postmus corruption flow to the billboards also.  Billboard money is known to have been flowing to him.

      Only through discovery can information not contained in the administrative record about the county's Guidelines & Procedures, the county's practices and policies in processing billboard applications, and the true motives and intent behind the dropping of environmental studies and other requirements that for years earlier were deemed necessary by the county, can be made known to the court; and whether the billboard permits should be rescinded based upon violations of environmental law.

      As of this writing, Stearn has not decided whether to file a writ which he may leave as a later issue should an appeal become necessary.

      The administrative record, which is prepared by the county, has already been found to be sanitized of earlier written communications by Stearn, in which he has had to provide duplicate copies to the county to have entered into the record.  Without vital discovery, a question remains as to what other information is missing from the county's administrative record; and whether the billboard applications' processing was deficient in other mandated standards deemed necessary by the county staff.

      Whether eliminating more evidence will have any impact upon the final decision is not known at this time.  The court's recent ruling may be bringing the matter to a quicker resolution.

      Next on the agenda is an OSC (Order to Show Cause) regarding the status of the Administrative Record which is set for May 16, 2012 at 8:30 A.M. in Department S36, San Bernardino County Superior Courthouse.

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