For some, it feels like the noose has tightened on the Town of Mammoth Lakes. Thursday, in Superior Court in Mammoth Lakes, lawyers for the Town of Mammoth and for Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition spoke via phone conference in front of Judge Randall on MLLA’s request for a writ to force the Town to immediately pay its $42 million lawsuit judgment debt. The atmosphere, according to some, was not friendly.
Those present got the feeling the Judge might issue such a writ in a hearing for March 23rd. Judge Randall is reportedly the same Judge who sat on the original jury trial regarding the Hot Creek lawsuit. He knows the story.
In court Thursday, an attorney for MLLA wanted the writ issued immediately. Town Financial Consultant Marianna Marysheva-Martinez confirmed that attorney John Higgenbotham of Best, Best & Kreiger represented the Town in Thursday’s hearing. She said that another hearing would take place later this month which would amount to a decision on the writ or a continuation of the process.
Observers said that the Town had asked Judge Randall for more time, which he did not grant, and pled bankruptcy. Reports said Mammoth’s attorney told the court that the Town does not want to declare bankruptcy but can not pay the full $42 million. Further reports from the hearing indicated that the Judge said the matter of the judgment had been settled over a year ago. Some additional paperwork will be filed and the parties will go back to court in a couple of weeks.
Martinez said that separate from this court proceeding is the Town’s effort to deal with MLLA in mediation. Asked if MLLA were willing to mediate, Martinez said she didn’t have a firm response. Then, she did say, “My understanding is that they are open to mediation. From our attorneys,” she said, “we get the idea that they are willing.” No date for mediation has been set and no mediators have been selected. The MLLA attorney’s tone in court was a demanding one and not conciliatory toward Mammoth Lakes.
Asked about the next court hearing on March 23rd, Martinez said it is her understanding that the options will be that the Judge issues a writ for MLLA to collect all of its money, or that the Judge continues the matter with additional information, or that mediation will take place.
Is the Town poised for bankruptcy as some have speculated? Martinez said she could not confirm that. She said no emergency meetings are currently set for that topic. She did say that all interested parties are being contacted about taking part in the mediation with MLLA, including contractors, employee unions, banks and bond holders.
Meanwhile, other reports suggest that Town officials, including Martinez, Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht and Mayor Jo Bacon have begun a process to ask all Town contractors and employee unions to take an average 10% pay cut to make up an anticipated $2 million shortfall in this year’s Town budget. We have placed calls to Town officials to learn more about this matter.