Lawsuit derails fresh start for Promote La Jolla

Leaders of the local Business Improvement District known as Promote La Jolla stumbled out of the starting gate last week, but did manage to elect a new president and board officers.

Wednesday’s meeting at the La Valencia Hotel was originally intended to be the board of directors annual “retreat” to brainstorm new ideas and set priorities for the coming year. Instead, the board became embroiled in a lengthy procedural debate about how to deal with an unresolved lawsuit against the agency by two of its own board members.

Some members said the lawsuit must be resolved before the 15-member board can hold frank discussions on the future direction of the agency, which was formed in 1987 to foster commerce in a 30-block area of the village.

“My fear is that the board will remain divided and not accomplish anything,” said board member George Hauer, a local restaurauteur.

Still brewing

The lawsuit at issue was filed in 2007 following a disputed election in which bookstore owner Nancy Warwick and hotel operator Bob Collins contended they should be seated on the board when it was determined that two others who received more votes were not eligible because they no longer worked in the Village.

When leaders of Promote La Jolla refused to seat the pair, Collins and Warwick sued.

Their lawsuit also asked for numerous public records, primarily financial documents, from Promote La Jolla. The agency is funded in part by assessments paid by local business owners.

In search of records

A judge eventually ruled in favor of Warwick and Collins, who were seated on the board last year. However, Collins said he has not received all the records he originally asked for and has refused to sign the final settlement agreement.

Warwick said she’s satisfied and she wants the lawsuit settled.

Following a closed session, the board agreed to instruct its attorney to negotiate a final settlement with Warwick and Collins.

New officers

The awkward situation now lands in the lap of incoming board president Rick Wildman, a local attorney, who was elected unanimously along with a new slate of officers.

Wildman replaces Deborah Marengo, owner of the Goldfish Point Cafe, who had been president of the Promote La Jolla board for the past seven years.

The other board officers elected unanimously were vice president Jennifer Clark, a home furnishings store owner; treasurer Daisy Fitzgerald, manager of an antique store and secretary Glen Rasmussen, an attorney.

Road rally ahead?

In other actions, the board - with the exception of Collins - gave verbal support to waive its policy opposing street closures within the Village to accommodate a luxury car rally that promoters want to stage along Girard Avenue the morning of April 25.

Because the item was not on the agenda and was only for information, a formal vote could not be taken.

Jason Overell of Targa Trophy said he anticipates the automotive marketing event will attract about 5,000 spectators and participants.

“The clientele really fits La Jolla,” Overell said.

The car rally - more of a parade than a race - would begin in La Jolla, travel through Palm Springs and end in the evening in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.

The organizers are still seeking an event permit from the city and must still get a formal OK from Promote La Jolla and the La Jolla Town Council.