Navickas no longer a plaintiff in lawsuit against MAA

Ashland City Councilor Eric Navickas is no longer a plaintiff in the initial lawsuit, filed by he and three environmental groups in January of 2005, against the Mt. Ashland expansion project.

Neither are the Sierra Club and the Oregon Natural Resources Council, but because those two groups filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, they became appellants and Navickas, who didn't file the appeal, did not.

"He was not a party to the appeal," said a clerk with the appeals court's office in Portland, who declined to give her name. "He was a party in the lower court case, but he is not an appellant in our court."

"I've got enough going on with council responsibilities and making a living," Navickas said.

Before he was elected to the city council, Navickas was the lone individual in a suit against the forest service that included Headwaters, the Sierra Club and ONRC.

But once elected to office, Navickas and the city administration wondered if his status as a plaintiff would create a conflict of interest if the council took action on Mt. Ashland's expansion project.

Former city attorney Mike Franell asked the question of the state Government Standards and Practices Committee, which stated his status as a plaintiff would only affect his standing as a political figure if he or a member of his family had a vested financial interest in the outcome of the case.

Navickas and City Administrator Martha Bennett said he does not.

"Something Eric did on the council would have to have an effect on the federal court case," Bennett said. "And either help or hurt him financially. It doesn't exist."

Don Crabtree, the investigator with GSPC, said a conflict of interest could arise if Navickas tries to recover attorneys fees &

if environmentalists win the case. Navickas said he would seek restitution for the 200 hours of research he did in formulating his case against the forest service.

George Kramer, a local historic expert, follows Ashland politics closely. Kramer said he does not have a position on the expansion project and did not vote for Navickas, but, even though he understands there is no official conflict of interest, "it is definitely different."

He said, "Something doesn't seem appropriate about it. It's pretty unusual for a litigant in a law suit to become an elected official who makes decisions about the defendant. I wish he wouldn't participate."

Kramer and Navickas agree on at least one point: that those who voted for Navickas expect him to take Mt. Ashland to task over the expansion project.

"Throughout the election I was very open with my position on the ski development," Navickas said. "I believe the majority of Ashland constituents oppose this unnecessary and aggressive intrusion into our municipal watershed and they expressed that during the election."

Navickas could still have to deal with another conflict concerning the expansion project and his role as a councilor. He still has not ruled out protesting or engaging in civil disobedience if the expansion ever happens.

"We'll see when the time comes," he said, "More than likely I won't have to make the decision."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or .

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