Ford dealer adds names to lawsuit

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MORGAN HILL
– All seven Morgan Hill planning commissioners were added
Wednesday to a lawsuit by Bob Lynch Ford in Gilroy against the city
and Tim Paulus, operator of a planned Ford dealership coming to
town.
MORGAN HILL – All seven Morgan Hill planning commissioners were added Wednesday to a lawsuit by Bob Lynch Ford in Gilroy against the city and Tim Paulus, operator of a planned Ford dealership coming to town.

The suit was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by local attorney Bruce Tichinin for his client Scott Lynch, trying to stop the new store with the state’s unfair competition law.

Previously the lawsuit named the city, City Council, Paulus and the landowners, and none except Paulus and the landowners were listed by individual name. But this time, the name of each individual member of a named council, commission or department was listed.

City Attorney Helene Leichter said the individual defendants had no personal liability.

Tichinin said the new tack, if approved by the court, would allow the city to be sued.

“The question for the court,” Tichinin said, “is whether city officials are ‘natural persons’ and whether the Planning Commission and City Council are organizations of persons. If they are, then the city can be sued. If they are not, the city can’t be sued. The answer is obvious.”

Councilwoman Hedy Chang was listed with the other four council members, a surprise because she alone fought to derail the move and voted against approving the zoning variances.

“Bruce does what he has to do,” Chang said Monday. “I was proud of my vote.”

Planning Commissioner Charles Weston was not pleased with being added to the suit.

“It’s too bad Scott Lynch can’t think of anything more creative than to try to eliminate the competition,” Weston said. “He could lower his prices, buy property in a better location or even improve his service.” Weston said the distance between stores, according to Ford Motor Co., must be 10 miles or more.

The new dealership will be located on Condit Road just north of East Dunne Avenue, about 12 miles away from the Gilroy Ford store at Monterey Street and Luchessa Avenue.

Besides the unfair competition argument, the suit is based on zoning waivers the city staff and Planning Commission recommended and the City Council approved. Failure to perform an environmental impact report for the area was also mentioned in the suit.

The next step, Leichter said, is to file papers asking for a hearing on a motion to dismiss. The hearing will most likely be set in March, she said.

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