Two things occupy my mind this Tuesday as we go to press. One, the long, redacted investigation into the cause of the Mountain Fire and now the two civil court cases filed last week against the owner and caretakers of the property where the fire ignited Monday, July 15, 2013.
What irony that plaintiffs of one case filed on the fire’s two-year anniversary and the other plaintiff just two days prior.
But now that the complaints are filed, don’t expect this court case to move any speedier than the fire investigation. The first case management conference hearings aren’t scheduled until January 2016.
And while we want to see justice done for these plaintiffs, remember that these are not criminal cases like that of an arsonist. These are civil cases seeking monetary compensation for damages — damages to the state (us) for fire suppression costs, investigation and report costs, among other expenses. But also damages to property owners who suffered losses of their real and personal property, as well as to their businesses. They lost stuff and stuff can be replaced, but some also lost pets. They suffered unimaginable emotional distress and mental anguish. And, the plaintiffs may not win.
Two, the idea that, whether the IWD staff and board agree or not, a member of the public and candidate for that board is experiencing resistance to acquiring information.
As a former IWD employee, he is critical of the agency on matters of operations and transparency. Criticism may be a tough pill to swallow, but the Brown Act specifically says a public board “ … shall not prohibit criticism of the policies, procedures, programs or services of the agency …” IWD needs a ray of sunshine.