Town Manager says there is a plan


Mammoth Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht

For those who feel that the Town of Mammoth has slipped down the rabbit hole never to stabilize, officials say there is a plan to work out of the huge $43 million lawsuit debt and back to the Town people want; but it will take time.

Following Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition’s surprise public settlement offer a week ago for the Town to pay principle and interest of $86 million over 30 years, Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht described the current process with MLLA as one that could lead to settlement or to bankruptcy. His comments point to a path that would be required if the Town were to try for bankruptcy, but it wouldn’t necessarily lead there.

He said the Town sees the next step now as a third party mediator to look at the finances, do some due diligence and try to achieve a settlement. He explained that in California if a public entity is thinking about Chapter 9 and a re-structuring of debt, the Town “has to go through mediation.” Wilbrecht said that regardless of what MLLA does, some of the Town’s creditors will go to mediation.  “We’ve been working on a restructuring plan,” he said.

MLLA’s attorney had stated in the March 23rd letter that his clients are not interested in mediation.  Wilbrecht said if mediation does not work, then the Town would have to figure out how to pay the debt by the end of the fiscal year as ordered by the court.  He said if the Town can not pay its bills, “We would go to bankruptcy court and ask for a process.” Wilbrecht said the judge would look at all the facts and arguments.

Asked if the MLLA debt would be reduced in formal bankruptcy, Wilbrecht said, “We don’t know that.”  A bankruptcy judge would consider the situation and whether Mammoth qualified for bankruptcy.  The judge would also determine payments by creditors.  Wilbrecht repeated that the Town’s first interest is mediation.  “We believe strongly,” he said, “that we can not pay the full amount.”

Asked if a bankruptcy judge could force the sale of the Mammoth-Yosemite Airport and the bell-shaped parcel owned by the Town to pay off its debts, Wilbrecht said he believes the way the law is written the Town “has a duty and obligation to fulfill its mission.  Certain assets are needed to do that.”  He said this doesn’t mean the Town couldn’t liquidate assets to help with a settlement.  Wilbrecht said he believes the bankruptcy judge could order liquidation.

A major issue between the Town and MLLA is what makes up basic services in Mammoth Lakes – what government has to support. Wilbrecht said that Town officials will talk to the public about this.  He is working on a public letter that the Town Council will consider when they meet April 4th.  “The Town has wanted to communicate with the public, but we have been under a confidentiality agreement with MLLA not to,” said Wilbrecht.  He did say that since MLLA has made details of their settlement offer public, the Town may say more publicly too.

Although Wilbrecht did not say so, most believe the legal and financial specialists the Town has hired must be advising the course of public versus secret communications and the labyrinth of steps that the Town must take to deal with its enormous money problem.


39 Responses to Town Manager says there is a plan

  1. Ken Warner March 30, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Since the original judgment against Mammoth Lakes in 2008, the town leadership’s plans have been based on denial. First they denied that a legally binding commitment was legally binding. Then they denied that the initial judgment was correct. Then they fiddled around by not developing a realistic plan to pay a legitimate debt thinking they could somehow negotiate and pay less money. That denial has added over 30% of the original judgment to the amount owed and could result in more than doubling the original award.

    Now they are working on a plan which may include liquidating some of the last valuable open space in town and other assets important to the quality of life in Mammoth Lakes. And the people who bear the responsibility for getting the town in this fix in the first place by walking away from a legally binding commitment will never be held directly responsible. Each day the town goes deeper in debt to MLLA while others are getting rich constructing plans that will strip our town to the bone.

    I just don’t understand how the people of Mammoth Lakes can be so apathetic as to allow this farce to have continued for over 4 years. Walking away from a legally binding commitment shouldn’t have been allowed to happen in the first place.

    Maybe we deserve what we get.

    • Bemused March 31, 2012 at 10:49 am #

      You are so right Ken…this really is downright criminal, and it’s getting worse by the day. The millions spent (and to be spent) on attorney fees literally turns my stomach.

    • Big AL March 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

      Good post Ken

      • Big AL March 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

        I hope the town does not give up to land they are thinking of giving. As Ken say’s, this is valuable open land, not so much as real property to be developed, rather land that is open space, to remain that way.
        I can’t help but think that the members of MMLA have thought of this already, getting this land from the town, so it can be developed. It wouldn’t be surprising to me if that was the case.
        But sadly I think it might not be an option to keep it.

    • MJA March 31, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

      Terry Ballas is the man responsible for the fix the community or people of Mammoth find themselves in, no one else. Ya, the developer that testified he didn”t know the land he leased was subject too FAA approval. The same Ballas that sued the town for not telling him the obvious. Mr. Ballas, the manager of the Santa Monica airport testified that he didn’t know the land he was leasing for condo development around an airport was subject to FAA approval.
      AH, BS..
      Doesn’t everyone know?
      He sued the town as an excuse for his own ignorance, and nothing more.
      The court approved; I don’t.


      • Wayne Deja March 31, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

        The people of Mammoth are responsible for the fix they find themselves in…

        • Dave April 1, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

          Actually, Wayne, the PEOPLE of Mammoth are not responsible for all of this. A few incompetent council members, an airport manager, former Town Manager and former Town Attorney might be mostly responsible.

          Why do you HATE the people of Mammoth so much? You and Upthecreek have ONE agenda and it gets so irritating when you jump all over any opportunity to push your personal vendettas.

          A majority of town citizens may have elected those Council members – but a majority of US citizens also voted in some horrible presidents in history, also.

          We can’t go back and fix the mistakes that are made. I feel the 43 million settlement is a TRAGEDY of justice and indicative of the GREED that is RUINING our country. To pay any settlement, beyond what is REASONABLE, is unacceptable.

          I hope the ToML delays/claws/fights as long as it can. At least someone is standing up to a bully. Nobody in Inyo seems to stand up to LADWP?

          • Rob April 2, 2012 at 10:25 am #

            The government the PEOPLE elect is the government they deserve, and they deserve to get it good and hard.

          • Wayne Deja April 2, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

            Dave…To be honest,I don’t understand a whole lot about how a town can get in such a mess…But what I do know is,long ago,back in the 80’s,I used to enjoy going to the little town of Mammoth Lakes…nice,quiet little town with friendly people.But things changed….It’s not as if it’s like a Clint Eastwood movie where greedy,bad people come riding in and take the town over,and do as they please.People could have stopped all the growth….if they wanted to.But they wanted all the Xtra tourism,the $$$,they wanted to be the “West coast Aspen”….they wanted to implement there own “rules”.Multi-million dollar homes popping up,an airport,the “village” with numerous taverns and problems that go along with that.Making it to where the only way you can afford to live up there is by packing in 4 or 5 people in a one bedroom apartment….unless you were an out-of-town visitor and/or millionaire,and owning one of those big,fancy homes.People didn’t want Mammoth Lakes to be a nice place to live,and raise your children..and retire.They wanted it to be the cutting-edge #1 ski and party town this side of the Rocky Mountains.

  2. Bemused March 31, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    We feel so much better now…

  3. Rob March 31, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    “the Town sees the next step now as a third party mediator to look at the finances,”

    How much is that going to cost and what the hec do we pay you for?

  4. Dingo March 31, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Custer had a plan.

  5. longtimemammothresident March 31, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    I agree that the Town should have never entered the legally binding committment but, since the parties that originally agreed to that committment are no longer around, why should the taxpayers be on the hook for it? The Town Council certainly acted against what I believed was right at the time. this scenario is travesty followed by travesty. I don’t want to lose the bell-shaped parcel but let the Airport go and declare bankruptcy. It’s what most of the other developers did – except for MLLA, who would have had the project been approved to go forward. MLLA is being completely unreasonable. The loss of the project approval saved them millions and I don’t get why the courts can’t see that. This needs to go to a court that will see it – hence bankruptcy being the only way with the resulting loss of services vs. making the taxpayers pay more.

  6. Dennis Kostecki March 31, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    What confounds me, is the same people who spearheaded the original mess are still around and continue to get voted in again and again. Not knowing the nuts and bolts of it all (been in Mammoth a mere 5 years), it looks as if these same people may have their fingers in too many pies, have way too much power, and business associates, and this doesn’t seem to be an issue to their constituents. We reap what we sew.

    It seems to me, Dave Wilbrecht has inherited what the previous town manager and that group
    has left behind for him to deal with.

    • Problem Solved March 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm #


      The Town Attorney, Peter Tracey advised the Town Council to vote this way. He was getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do his homework. Now do you know why he left Town?

      Head of Risk Management, Mike Grossblatt advised the Town Council to vote this way. He too was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do his homework.

      The list of people who were getting paid to look into this and advise the Town Council is endless.

      Sad but true!

      • Reality Bites March 31, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

        WOW! The real truth comes out. Peter Tracy said the same thing publically until the bitter end. The Town should sue Tracy for malpractice.

    • Dave April 1, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

      Dennis, it is a shame. But, look at the current council seat re-election… we only had one – Michael Raimondo (sp? sorry) step up to the plate. He has the ball$ but not many do. We need some talent on this small-town Town Council and the talent is not forthcoming.

      Bring back Mrs. Cage??? She was the only one who voted no. Right?

  7. Edward Smith March 31, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    I believe there was an evacuation plan on the Titanic as well,,,

    • Home girl April 2, 2012 at 7:43 am #

      Yes there was, with only enough life boats for the wealthy. Very nice analogy

      • Tourbillon April 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

        Right, and the two wealthiest men aboard, John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, went down with the ship because, in Guggenheim’s words that he asked to be delivered to his wife, “No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward.”

        Not saying it isn’t fun to bash the rich. Darned tootin’ it’s fun. It’s just that sometimes it’s gul-danged ignorant.

        • Home girl April 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

          wasn’t bashing the rich, simply stating a fact, which you obviously know cause you were able to quote 2 out of hundreds of the wealthy that had some courage. There were not enough life boats for all of the passengers FACT. Fact, Courage knows no financial or race or sex limits there are some of both in every class. I still think it was a great analogy. Do you honestly think the fat cats that make almost a quarter of a million a year are gonna still be here when it all goes south. NO THEY WILL NOT, they will take thier retirement and leave us to fend for ourselves just like the Titanic.

  8. fed up March 31, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    I agree with a lot of your comments hence my name!
    I complain plenty. I did not vote for Eastman nor did my friends We moved the last few out
    including Kirk stapp.. These guys are so connected. We were hopeful the young people would get involved by they did not.

    So where has it been said that the bell would be for sale. The bell was designated open space. The general plan would need to be changed in order to sell it for development.

  9. Trouble March 31, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    The truth hurts Mammoth. You are broke. Pay what you can now and go bankrupt. Get this over with. Borrowing money to pay these cone artist is foolish. Your options are to pay double.

  10. Charles James April 1, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    Dennis, thank you.

    Your comment that “We reap what we sew” (sic) had me in, well, “stitches”! Malapropism aside, humor may be one of the few benefits of this mess that gets the people of Mammoth Lakes through this ordeal.

    Dingo’s four-word comment that “Custer had a plan” was an epigram that summed up this matter succinctly…and with humor, as did Edward’s “…there was an evacuation plan on the Titanic as well.”

    The only ones that must really be laughing about all this is MLLA and its lawyers…and they are laughing all the way to the bank.

  11. Observer April 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    Thanks, Benett, for your fine story. Now it’s time for the local press to start unpacking recent statements by MMM and Wilbrecht and pose a new round of questions. Is the TOML budget chronically unbalanced? Is the TOML, like many other cities across America, confronting an era of large unfunded mandates from past and current employee contracts?

    The MLLA obligation notwithstanding, has the TOML fallen into a black hole, where paying retiree benefits, medical care commitments, pensions and salaries is an escalating burden that is unsustainable now ( aggravated by a bad snow year, legal bills), and impossible when the town adds a few million dollars a year to the expense budget for paying off MLLA?

    Growth and development have come to a standstill in ML. No growth coupled with increasing legacy expenses and declining revenues can lead to fiscal crisis. TOML must also must pay off MLLA (although it is not yet budgeted).

    I don’t know the answers, but have yet to hear a plausible explanation as to why a 15%-20% hit to the budget, even for 30 years (to pay off MLLA), should precipitate the ongoing behind-closed-doors machinations now occurring in ML, or necessitate more millions of dollars in legal bills. It just doesn’t add up.

    • Problem Solved April 2, 2012 at 6:47 am #


      It is very obvious that you are part of the MLLA team.

      Every local in this town knows that Terry Ballas would have went bankrupt if he actually would have built this project.

      Do you know anyone that wants to buy a condo with planes flying within 100 feet of their unit. Don’t think so.

      Your big dollar attorney’s are very effective. But don’t plan on the locals laying down and getting run over again !

      • Observer April 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

        Problem Solved:

        No, Observer doesn’t work for MLLA, or believe they had a case to win, or should have won it before a judge and jury–– although I do think TOML and its attorneys lost the case, and failed to develop a record at trial on which to successfully appeal the verdict.

        And no, I am not happy MLLA is going to collect on its judgement, but all of that is “water over the dam” at this point. (Note: I agree with you about Ballas, too, but what difference does it make what you or I think of him? what matters––and is not being seriously acknowledged,–– is that it appears he will collect in full on his writ of mandate, no matter what any of the rest of us think about him, his plan,his case, or his writ.)

        What I want is to see the matter resolved, at the least cost to the community, which the TOML seems incapable of doing, for reasons that are not fully apparent to me.

        And, although you didn’t suggest it––but might have, given your suspicions and accusations,–– I don’t have it in for public servants doing their jobs, or retiring with benefits: the question is whether or not the TOML must reduce benefits to get back on an even keel. That is why I want the press (go Benett!) to ask follow-up questions, and try to bring this discussion of the real obstacles to settlement into the public sphere, where they can be discussed and decided with citizen input in open forums, rather than by lawyers in Texas advising council members and management in closed session.

        Bottom line: budget problems––if that is what this is all about at this point–– should be discussed in open council session, not behind closed doors.

  12. Dave April 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Sadly, behind closed doors may be the only way to operate a meeting – w/ so many arm chair quarterbacks and lynch mobbers attending nothing would ever get done. I hate to admit it… but maybe we can only trust those in charge right now? MMM and Dave W. and the lawyers the town has retained???

    Major “thumbs down” on this post, I’m sure!!

  13. dennis kostecki April 2, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    It seems to me, there are those who may have gotten in over their heads financially with their real estate investments. This might explain the non-stop angst, sniping, sour grapes, and personal attacks as their property continues to depreciate with the realization that they have not adequately prepared for the future in other ways while keeping up with the Joneses.

    Perhaps they are living in the past believing the property they have purchased will always appreciate and make them rich like their fathers and their grandfathers before them have been doing for years. Buy and sell. Buy and sell. This has been going on since after the Great Depression and has finally come to a screeching halt and are driving some over the edge both financially and mentally (especially as they age).

    I think some of these people have “spiritual” leaders such as Rush Limbaugh, and what has come to be known as “Tea Party Movement” who have nothing but hatred in their hearts for anybody owning a Public Administration degree, or those who are making a decent living in public service. (I really don’t think a community can survive without “tax-eaters” like fireman, policeman, educators, and yes, well-trained administrators.

    Hence the non-stop sour grapes against all forms of government ala Leninism and the cleverest of elected officials know all the hot-button words to use to rile up the masses.

    The real revolution should be coming from within – but most are unclear on that concept.

    • Problem Solved April 2, 2012 at 11:00 am #


      Your “liberal eliteist” comments have nothing to do with this issue.

      Rush Limbaugh, property values & the tea-party have nothing to do with this.

      If you want to blame this on our “well-trained administrators” like the Town Attorney & the head of Risk Management then you are correct.

      We would not be in this position without them.

      • dennis kostecki April 2, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

        Since the word has been brought up (as has become the method of today’s Limbaughs and Coulters) It’s always interesting how quickly some try to label, and negate opposing points of view in today’s polarized society.
        As if nobody is paying attention, the word “liberal” is almost always introduced as the last word for these foam-at-the-mouth types who spend entirely too much time listening to OxyContin-inspired millionaire rabble-rousers spouting the same tired “liberals are the devil!” childish nonsense.

        For the record the word liberal is defined in Webster’s this way: belonging to the people, free, to grow up, rise, plentiful, abundant, not restricted, giving freely,generous, ample, abundant, not strict, tolerant of views different from their own, broad-minded, favoring reform or progress

        Then there is Conservative guru Rush Limbaugh’s definition: anything goes, a bad American.

        As the state of California is generally thought to be the bastion of liberal thinking I must say count me in as a Californian and bad American.

        • dennis kostecki April 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

          Dear “Problem Solved”

          I’d love to discuss the definitions of things such as: Just what is a liberal?
          Or, Just what is a conservative? over a beer or two with you, but all I have as a contact from you is the name “Problem Solved.”

    • Big AL April 2, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

      Interesting Dennis

  14. dennis kostecki April 2, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    Where the real problem is:

    Until it is 100% illegal for an elected official to gain or accept one thin dime from any outside source – the system you have in place will be a corrupt one.

    • Big AL April 2, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

      Maybe also .. make elected offices volunteer service?

      • dennis kostecki April 3, 2012 at 9:04 am #

        “[a]t common law, extortion was an offense committed by a public official who took ‘by color of his office’ money that was not due to him for the performance of his official duties. . . . Extortion by the public official was the rough equivalent of what we would now describe as ‘taking a bribe.'” Evans v. United States, 504 U.S. 255 (1992). – Supreme Court decision

        I think the same anti-corruption law could be applied to those responsible for money misappropriated to an elected official’s friends, partners, business associates …

        It seems to me a simple anti-corruption clause could be mandated for all our public officials as part of their duty to the community and its integrity.

        Where some towns call themselves “The Friendliest Town In The World” (San Luis Obispo) , such an anti-corruption clause for Mammoth might inspire:
        “Mammoth – The Most Incorrupt City in America”

  15. Dave Jone April 2, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    How Many More Years Will Mammoth Drag It’s Feet…..

    And NOT Accept Responsibility for It’s Actions.

    Lets pay more laywers and not pay the judgement….. REALLY????

  16. dennis kostecki April 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    One has only to study the Bell, California scandal to see how easy it is for officials to misappropriate public funds, throw the money towards their pals’ and own interests, thus creating (if they are caught manipulating certain parcels of land) real estate deals that run amok.

    It seems to me that it’s a good idea to be wary when those involved in development and property find their way into power positions and are making major decisions for the community and economy. Look what happened to the City of Bell.

    Perhaps language can be introduced into town charters prohibiting and punishing conflicts of interest. It shouldn’t be that difficult to mandate this.

    Nobody wants Mammoth Lakes to eventually resemble Los Angeles with every square inch of land developed within the federal lands that surround us. This, I believe is not the reason we all have chosen to live here.

  17. What If April 2, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    If I recall, every Town Council decision made going back to 2005 thru the current status with respect to the Hot Creek summons and subsequent MLLA judgement was recommended by well known and nationally recognized independent outside legal firms (i.e. the best legal advice money can buy). If I recall, the Council also hired addtional outside legal firms to review the advice and recommendations of the original outside legal counsel and confirmed to the Town Council that the legal advice and guidance received was and has been sound. I can only imagine how many millions have been spent going back the past seven years. Before we continue to rag on Rob Clark, Peter Tracy, and others for supposedly causing this debacle, perhaps we should give credit where credit is due…


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