Natomas District OKs Land Deal Settlement

THE NATOMAS BUZZ |@natomasbuzz
In the end, the gamble just wasn’t worth it.
The Natomas Unified school board on Wednesday night voted unanimously to a pay more than half a million dollars and end years of litigation stemming from a controversial land purchase made in 2006.
It was a lesson learned for us (board members),” said Sue Heredia, Natomas school board president. “I’m ready to move on.”
The approved settlement has the school district paying $550,000 in attorney’s fees to developer West Lakeside LLC and ends the risk of paying millions of dollars more in future lawyer fees, said Superintendent Chris Evans in a presentation to the board.
The best way I could put it, it’s a gamble,” said Evans, pointing topotential legal fees in excess of $3 million if the school district pursued –and lost – its suit.
Little opposition to the settlement was voiced prior to the board’s vote on Wednesday.Three people, including two former school board candidates, attended the proceedings and made statements during public comment.
It took the Grand Jury to hold the board’s feet to the fire,” Keith Lyon said. “If AKT (Investments) wants you to be silent, make AKT pay for it. Don’t settle, don’t pay a nickle.”
Lyon took issue with the settlement upholding the original purchase sale agreement and a non-disparagment clause. He also disputed whether the 33+ acres the school district is left with is useable.
“It is clear AKT took advantage of an incompetent school board and they picked our pockets,” said Lyon. “Go forward, don’t be afraid of a jury trial.”
Briza Trujillo Cardenassaid the settlement contradicted a May 2009 Sacramento County GrandJury report which found the Natomas Unified School District originally paid too much for the land. The report also cited an attorney’s failure to disclose a conflict of interest in brokering the deal.
Said Cardenas, “Do you think that is being responsible?”
West Lakeside LLC and Mark Skreden were the two remaining defendants in a lawsuit which alleged the school district was swindled when it overpaid $10 million for a 41-acre school site west of Interstate 5 in Natomas.
“We hired people who flat out lied to us,” said school board member Lisa Kaplan. “I agree with Mr. Lyon and would love to take it forward. Nobody should take advantage of a school district. It is a gamble. We need the $4 million for our building fund.”

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