Hilliard steps down from fairgrounds subcommittee

DEL MAR — Carl Hilliard, one of the original council members involved in the city’s potential purchase of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, announced at the Jan. 24 meeting that after more than 18 months in negotiations he will no longer serve on that subcommittee.
“It is important to focus on this transaction as being one accomplishing a city goal and not on the individuals involved,” Hilliard said. “Unfortunately I’ve become the target of opposition based on my horse ownership.
“There is no conflict of interest on my part, but it’s important that this issue not cloud our effort going forward,” he said. “Therefore, it appears in the best interest of the city for me to step down as a member of the fairgrounds subcommittee.“
Mayor Don Mosier volunteered to replace Hilliard, but because the announcement wasn’t publicly noticed he will likely be named to the post at the Feb. 7 meeting.
“It’s very unfortunate that we get to this point here that people seem to want to throw mud,” said Councilman Mark Filanc, Hilliard’s subcommittee colleague. “Carl always works with the utmost integrity in everything that he does. The experience and the intelligence that he brings to the table will sorely be missed in these negotiations.
“I think Carl is the one that got us here today,” Filanc said. “Our job now is to finish what he started. … Always what he is striving to do is for the city of Del Mar. It’s not personal. It’s always acting on the best interests of the city.”
Later in the meeting council authorized the transfer of $150,000 from planning to fund legal services for the proposed $120 million purchase of the state-owned site. The money was earmarked for an environmental impact report for downtown revitalization, however, that project is still not ready to move forward to that point.
The city is using three legal firms for the fairgrounds transaction.
Nossaman LLP was hired for its “specialized knowledge” of California government. Council previously approved a total expenditure of $60,000 for that firm, whose services will likely no longer be needed after June 30.
“I see the end of the Nossaman contract,” Hilliard said. “They’ve done what they were supposed to do.”
The city also authorized $50,000 for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliff LLP for bond counsel. That amount will increase to $150,000 if the sale is approved by both parties and again if bonds are issued. All Orrick expenses would be payable from bond proceeds and money already spent would be reimbursed to the city’s general fund.
Finally, Del Mar has paid more than $44,400 to Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz for services outside its regular retainer with that firm and is estimating it may need another $53,300 for future work.
City Attorney Leslie Devaney said she is mindful of the city’s budget.
“What I’m doing, personally, in general oversight usually I write off to the retainer as it relates to the fairgrounds,” Devaney said. “I am not personally hurrying to bill on that outside contract. … Every time it’s fairground I don’t automatically bill to that.”
Although Del Mar pays Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz an hourly rate of $220 for partners and $205 for associates, Devaney said that is less than the firm’s typical government rates.
Del Mar projects it will spend $207,700 on legal fees for the fairgrounds purchase by June 30.

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