Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Created: 11/12/2010 04:26:10 PM PST

UPLAND – Now that Janice Rutherford has been elected to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, some Upland officials are hopeful she will have a positive influence over a pricey lawsuit filed against them by the county.

Upland Mayor John “JP” Pomierski as well as councilmen Ray Musser and Ken Willis endorsed Rutherford over incumbent Paul Biane in the Nov. 2 election because of the financial burden the lawsuit has placed on city coffers.

Rutherford, who will be sworn in Dec. 6, is in favor of dismissing or suspending the lawsuit against the city, Caltrans and San Bernardino Associated Governments, but she will have to convince at least two other county supervisors before any decisions can be made.

“I haven’t talked to the lawyers about it yet since I’m not yet sworn into office,” she said. “But it’s one of those discussions to have shortly after being sworn in to see what the status is and what my colleagues intentions are and what I can do to help right the situation.”

The Board of Supervisors agreed to sue the three entities after agreeing to a $102 million settlement in 2006 with Rancho Cucamonga-based developers, Colonies Partners, LP. The developer built the Colonies Crossroads Shopping Center and some surrounding housing in northeast Upland.

The county is claiming the entities shared responsibility for a freeway plan – building the freeway below ground level to reduce noise – and the re-routing of storm water runoff onto the Colonies property.

The county is investigating the settlement.

Rutherford said at the very least the lawsuit should be suspended until the investigation and criminal proceedings are carried out.

“If it turns out that the Colonies settlement was the result of any impropriety then it’s crazy to be pursuing legal action against other taxpayers,” she said.

The city has spent more than $3 million on the lawsuit, Pomierski said.

“We are all very hopeful and confident that she’ll see the wasteful spending that’s going on now monthly by the county,” Pomierski said. “It is causing one of the 24 cities in the county to be spending to defend itself, and Upland shouldn’t be in this lawsuit.”

The lawsuit does not strictly impact Upland, but rather the entire county, county spokesman David Wert said.

“Upland is one of the defendants in this lawsuit, but it’s not strictly a district issue in the sense that the entire county is impacted by the liability of the Colonies decisions, so that will come into play too,” Wert said.

Rutherford can bring the issue up for discussion during a closed session, but any decision would have to be made by the board as a whole, Wert said.

“Individuals do not have the authority to determine the county’s positions on litigation, even something specifically in one of the supervisors’ districts,” he said.

But, before Rutherford can make any decisions, she will have to be briefed on all components of the lawsuit, Supervisor Josie Gonzales said.

“It’s not just a one-sided briefing, it’s a multi-sided briefing,” she said. “You’ve got Caltrans, Sanbag, the city of Upland, she now has the county and she’s not had the time the rest of us have had to become familiar with all of the sides and also the different hats we are responsible for wearing and giving different considerations to.”

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