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City cuts losses and moves on from lawsuit

Forest Grove councilors informally OK $100,000 settlement against former city attorney


Forest Grove City Councilors voted unanimously Monday night to settle a lawsuit against the law firm that represented the city back in 2005, when councilors decided to condemn private property belonging to Hally and Mary Haworth.

Officials had hoped to use the 140 acres just outside Forest Grove’s boundary for recreational activities.

In the lawsuit — filed July 17, 2012 — the city asked for $528,004 in damages from Jordan Ramis (formerly Jordan Schrader Ramis and Jordan Schrader), alleging negligence and breach of contract. Monday night, councilors accepted a settlement offer of $100,000.

According to the lawsuit, Jordan Ramis prepared and recommended a Resolution of Necessity in August 2005 in order to proceed with the condemnation. The council approved it.

Three months later — and three days after filing the condemnation lawsuit —Jordan prepared and recommended an amended Resolution of Necessity, which the council also approved.

Haworth challenged the original resolution, saying it did not spell out adequate public necessity as required for condemnation.

On the second day of trial, Dec. 21, 2006, Jordan recommended the city drop its condemnation suit. The city agreed and Washington County Circuit Court Judge Mark Gardner dismissed the case, recommending the parties pursue mediation.

Gardner also ruled that the city needed to pay the Haworths $186,635 for their legal costs.

In 2009, the Haworths filed their own lawsuit against the city, claiming further damages related to the condemnation attempt. The city settled that suit for $150,000 in November 2011.

In addition to the $336,000 paid to the Haworths, the city hoped to recover $43,014 in Haworth-related attorney fees and costs paid to Jordan, as well as $87,985 in “unnecessary and unreasonable attorney fees” and $60,369 for “unnecessary development costs” related to the condemnation proceeding.

According to the lawsuit’s negligence claim, Jordan Ramis failed to “adequately and fully advise” councilors about land-use requirements and limitations related to the condemnation process and particularly related to the public-necessity requirement.

The lawsuit, filed by Michael Greene of Rosenthal Greene and Devlin, claims Jordan Ramis incorrectly prepared and recommended the first Resolution of Necessity; and also that it filed the amended Resolution of Necessity too late — after the condemnation suit had already been filed — while indicating (incorrectly) that the amended version would fix the problems in the original resolution.

(The original resolution indicated the city might “sell or lease for private development” any part of the property not needed for parks and recreation. The amended resolution removed references to private development.)

The city would never have proceeded with condemnation if Jordan Ramis had advised them correctly, the suit claims.

Responding to the lawsuit, attorney Andrew Jordan claimed that, “I made no promises and gave no specific assurances about the legal sufficiency of the Resolution and never said anything to suggest a guarantee that it would pass the scrutiny of a court...I made no promises nor assurances about the success of that (condemnation) process.”

The Jordan firm’s initial response — filed Sept. 19, 2012, by attorney Larry Brisbee of Brisbee and Stockton — also claimed the city of Forest Grove was negligent for failing to accept one or more offers of reasonable settlement; for pursuing condemnation when it knew or should have known its evidence of public necessity was weak; for trying to condemn more property than needed for public use; and for giving up too early on the mediation process with the Haworths.

Jordan Ramis asked Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Edward J. Jones to dispose of the case without a trial, but Jones denied the request.

The council will formally approve the $100,000 settlement in February.



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