The Inland Oversight Comm. v. County of San BernardinoAnnotate this Case
Plaintiffs-respondents The Inland Oversight Committee (IOC) and Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development (CREED), were taxpayer organizations that challenged a November 2006 settlement agreement between petitioners County of San Bernardino and San Bernardino County Flood Control District (County) and defendant Colonies Partners, L.P. (Colonies and, together with County, defendants), pursuant to which County paid Colonies $102 million. Plaintiffs sought to have the settlement agreement declared void under state law governing conflicts of interests of government officials, and to force Colonies to disgorge any money already paid pursuant to the agreement. Colonies appealed the denial of its special motion to strike the complaint as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (anti-SLAPP motion) and two writ petitions, one brought by County, the other by Colonies, regarding the denial of their respective demurrers. This opinion addressed only Colonies’ appeal; the Court of Appeal ruled on the pending writ petitions in separate opinions, issued contemporaneously with this. In this appeal, Colonies argued that plaintiffs’ single asserted cause of action, for violation of Government Code section 1090, fell within the scope of the anti-SLAPP statute’s protections, and plaintiffs could not demonstrate a probability of success on the merits, either because of one of three fatal pleading defects: lack of standing, the effect of the validation judgment, and the inapplicability of Government Code sections 1090 and 1092 to payments in satisfaction of a court judgment, or the lapse of the applicable statute of limitations.. All these issues were raised in Colonies’ demurrer and its pending writ petition. The County raised similar arguments regarding standing in its writ petition challenging the denial of its demurrer. On that basis, Colonies argues that its anti-SLAPP motion should have been granted. After review, the Court of Appeal found plaintiffs’ action was not subject to an anti-SLAPP motion, because it fell within the public interest exception to the anti-SLAPP statute provided in section 425.17. The Court therefore affirmed.