Rick Wood is not exactly carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he certainly is carrying a very heavy heart.
The veteran town councilman and former mayor delivered an emotional speech to the town at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, trying to put into harsh perspective the effects the $30 million judgment against the town in the Hot Creek litigation case.
“Never again,” he intoned.
“Never again should we put ourselves in a situation where we don’t explore all the opportunities.”
An attorney, Wood challenged elected officials to create a higher standard employees and officials.
“It seems to me that the community deserves from its public officials, elected and those who are employees, something different than what we’ve experienced over the years.”
Wood made his comments after he and Mayor Skip Harvey were home from their first meeting with the Hot Creek litigants in Santa Monica, in which they began negotiations over terms of the settlement.
He said the first tete-a-tete went all right, so far as it goes, but from the tone of his speech on Wednesday, he must have felt a little bit like Lee meeting Grant – totally defeated and helpless.
“As I was leaving and returning to Mammoth, I couldn’t help but feel an extraordinary sense of sadness.
“We have found ourselves in a position over all these years where we as a community, with a $16-$18 million operating budget, will now face a judgment of overwhelming size.”
He said many people here will feel the pain.
“I don’t know who’s right in this, but I do know that the jury, judge, the appellate panel and the Supreme Court say we weren’t right.
“We were wrong.
“Most of the reason that I’m so sad is for those who do not deserve to have to pay for this.
“So as we go into our budget discussions, that overhang (the judgment) is significant. The depth of pain is going to be felt by everyone in the community.
“There will be pain to come. This council is acutely aware of it. We’re well represented by our interim manager and many of the experts that our community hires. We will keep you posted.
“I don’t want to sugar-coat this.
“The pain is spread around.”