A superior court judge Thursday ordered the developer involved in a failed bid to rebuild the Redondo Beach waterfront to pay roughly $900,000 to the attorneys representing the city’s mayor, a councilman and two leaders of a political action committee during the 2017 elections.
CenterCal Properties — along with CEO Fred Bruning and President John Paul Wardy — were named as “judgment debtors” in the case after it was revealed during the trial in November 2018 that the developer was funding the lawsuit on behalf of two Redondo Beach residents, Chris Voisey and Arnette Travis.
In April, Judge Malcolm Mackey ruled the defendants would receive attorney fees and Thursday specified the amount at $898,966.
Mackey issued his latest decision from the bench in his Downtown Los Angeles courtroom — and an official written ruling is expected in the next few months. Plaintiffs in the case have already filed an appeal. The case alleged the elected officials coordinated with the political action committee Rescue Our Waterfront along with other alleged campaign finance violations, all of which were denied by the judge.
Jeanne Zimmer, an attorney representing Councilmember Nils Nehrenheim in the case, said if she and other attorneys were able to prove before the trial that CenterCal was paying for the lawsuit they could have filed an anti-SLAPP motion meant to protect elected officials against politically-motivated frivolous lawsuits.
“This case was a vendetta against Bill Brand because Measure C won and it’s all just rotten sour grapes,” Zimmer said. “They just wanted to destroy Bill Brand in any way they could — and they couldn’t. It’s just a vendetta and they brought Nils and Rescue Our Waterfront along with it.”
Judge Mackey called the lawsuit “frivolous.” In his prior ruling, the judge called the plaintiffs “shills” and the lawsuit a “sham.”
Reached on Thursday, Voisey referred questions to his attorney, Bradley Hertz, who did not respond. Travis and Bruning also did not respond to requests for comments.
At the time it was filed, in July 2017, Travis and Voisey both denied CenterCal had any involvement in the lawsuit. During the trial, they were both pressed under oath about their knowledge of who was funding the case, which was detailed in the judge’s ruling issued in April.
“Travis testified that to her knowledge CenterCal was not paying for the prosecution of the case,” Judge Mackey wrote. “Travis testified that no one has asked her to pay for any of the costs of the case.”
In January and again in June, Hertz submitted sworn statements from Voisey and Travis stating they understood from the beginning the developer would be picking up any legal fees they would pay as a plaintiff in the case.
Attorney Steve Colin, who represented Mayor Brand, called the lawsuit politically motivated.
“The judge saw what the lawsuit really was: a vendetta,” Colin said. “It was politically motivated by people not telling the truth and being vindictive… I think it sends an important message to the developer and any of his associates and co-conspirators that they need to think twice before filing these types of frivolous actions.”