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Approving settlement & amount out of hands of Manteca’s leaders

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POSTED April 1, 2014 1:38 a.m.

A pending $2.2 million settlement won’t put a dent in Manteca’s municipal budget nor is it the doing of elected city leaders.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin declined to comment on court filings that indicated a $2.2 million settlement had been reached with the family of Ernest Duenez Jr., the 34-year-old man shot to death by a Manteca police officer on  June 8, 2011.  Lawyers with attorney John Burris, the Oakland-based firm representing the family, also opted not to comment given the terms of the settlement document haven’t been agreed to by a judge.

Manteca is insured through the Municipal Pooling Authority of Northern California.  The $2.2 million — if ultimately awarded by the judge — would come from the joint powers authority and not the City of Manteca per se. The city has already met its financial obligation that was capped at almost $200,000 to pay for legal expense occurred involving the lawsuit. That threshold was reached several years ago.

That money came out of reserves and did not impact municipal services or operations.

The MPA — and not the city – has been negotiating the lawsuit settlement. The lawsuit asked for $25 million in damages. The suit alleged excessive force was used by police.  

For all practical matters no one at the city including elected leaders have a real say in whether the lawsuit is negotiated instead of going to trial or what the terms of the settlement will be.

That’s because when the city joined the joint powers authority that provides municipal insurance coverage to 19 cities they agreed to transfer that decision making to the MPA board. They can offer input but that is it.

Manteca is the only non-Bay Area city in the MPA. The city joined the MPA shortly after Bob Adams was hired back in the late 1990s as Manteca’s city manager. Adams, who has since retired, came to Manteca from Lafayette which belonged — and still does — to the MPA. Other cities are Antioch, Brentwood, Orinda, Danville, El Cerrito, Hercules, Martinez, Moraga, Oakley, Orinda, Pacifica, Pinole, Pittsburgh, Pleasant Hill, San Pablo, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek.

The MPA works closely with member cities on a pro-active basis for loss control and risk prevention programs to control costs as well as provide a safe work environment.

In the past, members have been expelled from the MPA when they became too big of risks for a variety of reasons.

It is why the city staunchly defers to the MPA on insurance issues. Such was the case in initially establishing the BMX park as well as making sure modifications that were made without going through a risk assessment met established standards for safety.

The MPA’s management and risk assessment efforts are a reason why the city’s insurance rates have been kept affordable.

It isn’t clear whether the settlement will result in increased premiums for the city.

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