Sunday, January 11, 2009

What ever happened to the Chabad Lawsuit?

Did the Cooper City ever resolve this issue? Did the judge not say we had to pay?
Were there not legal fees to be paid? Until we get the word let the following be a reminder of that which brought this to be.

(Letter from a reader follows)

Let's see if I have this straight:

1. Some commissioners, the mayor, the city administration and members of the Planning and Zoning Committee had practiced religious discrimination against this small Jewish Chabad for years--all the while proclaiming that they were not. And all the while, they seemed to refuse to reach a settlement with the Rabbi for the harm he and his mission had received at their hands.

2. Finally, a federal judge found that, indeed, they had so unlawfully discriminated and ordered a jury trial for damages. The City continued to refuse to a} apologies for religious discrimination and b} violating the law and the Constitution. The City officials also seemed to continue to refuse or be unable to reach a settlement. All the while, the city continued to run up its legal costs, the costs of its outside lawyer and the legal costs of the Chabad. The only winners up to this point were the lawyers. If the aim of the mayor, some commissioners, some members of the P&Z committee and some of the city administration was to enrich some lawyers, they have succeeded.

3. Now, a federal jury has found the City to be guilty on all four counts--repeat all four counts, which I take it to mean that the City had no legal, ethical or moral basis to its position at all to begin with.

4. The City will now have to pay the Chabad some $325,000, plus an estimated $500,000 in the Rabbi's legal fees plus, of course, it has been paying its own legal fees all along. When it’s all done, we should be looking at something like $1,000,000 in absolutely wasted money on an unethical and illegal piece of nastiness that could have been used to either reduce taxes or provide improved city services. Put another way, the City has "burned" the costs of a full year of improved fire and police service, many improvements for our youth sports programs or any number of positive things for residents.

5. The City will now decide whether to appeal the court's findings. My hope is that the City decides not to appeal, to issue a formal apology to Chabad and to do all that it can to help the Rabbi find a location suitable to his mission in Cooper City ASAP. Any further contest on the part of the City would, in my judgment, only serve to waste more of the people's money and further tarnish our reputation.

6. The Rabbi's attorneys have said that they may also file suit again because of the latest round of city ordinances passed. Whatever the costs of the first fiasco, our costs may well continue to go up. That is a very good reason to finally do the right thing. I have my doubts that some of the powers- that -be will see it this way. After all, it is not their money they have been wasting: it is the hard earned money of thousands of residents. It's free money to the powers-that-be.

7. Mr. Wolpin and Mr. Burke have expressed an opinion that the City's insurance carrier will probably cover the costs of the damage awards {and legal fees?}. I would not rely on that opinion. It seems to me that the City government's practices have gone beyond negligence and into the realm of willfully contributing to the unnecessary harm suffered. Misbehavior. Insurance companies normally do not have to pay a policy holder if the cause of his damage is almost entirely the result of his own misdeeds and negligence: like your house burns down because you stored 1,000 gallons of gasoline next to a gas water heater in your garage and refused to correct the situation even after many people pointed out the danger.

Altogether, this is just a shameful and expensive blot on Cooper City. The powers -that -be should start doing the right thing or we should start drives to oust some of them from office so they can never again treat anyone this way and to waste our money so foolishly.

If I am incorrect in any of the above, please let me know.

Ed Wooley