Permit Fight Reveals Council Bias



Ever felt you weren’t getting a fair shake at City Hall, that biases and predeterminations were the rule and not the exception? The City Council hearing last week proves you are not crazy for feeling that way.

Karen Petty successfully overturned revocation of a permit for a short-term rental despite blatant biases and attempts to deny her due process.

Petty’s appeal was supposed to be “de novo” review, meaning weighing the evidence anew in an impartial, unbiased manner.  Well, blatant bias reared its ugly head when Mayor Toni Iseman inadvertently copied Ms. Petty on an email that exhibited egregious bias and a predetermined decision. No wonder many don’t trust government.

But the real stunner that night was not even Iseman’s errant email. It was the egregious lack of due process and trampling on rights that the City Council almost got away with after midnight.

Petty’s attorney presented an excellent case as to why the revocation was wrongful, as not one scintilla of evidence was presented as to the alleged permit violation. The city also blatantly failed to produce records concerning the violation, as required by law. Imagine being charged with a crime, and the court skips over the trial and goes directly to the sentencing.

Fortunately there’s a little thing called “due process” which safeguards ordinary folks from the arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the government.  Government can’t just trample on people’s rights. But this didn’t jive with the council’s anti short-term rental bias. The city manager suggested a re-do, another bite at the apple, and the city attorney quickly agreed.

Imagine, going through a trial, the court fails to convict you, and then you are put you on trial again because they didn’t get it “right” the first time. Well fortunately for Petty, her attorney and members of the public spoke up and said that was a blatant miscarriage of justice, and exposed the obvious bias.

Being left no choice, the City Council reluctantly reinstated the permit.

It was pretty for Petty, but not so pretty for the mayor and other councilmembers.

Sometimes you have to stand up and fight for your rights. And thank you Karen, for standing up. Shame on this city for making her spend thousands of dollars to defend her rights, an all too common occurrence these days.

Jennifer Welsh Zeiter, Laguna Beach


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