>Blackwater to sue City of San Diego in Federal Court

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At the San Diego City Council Meeting this morning (May 27) 8th District Councilmember Ben Hueso addressed a throng of citizens in attendance to register their protest against the Blackwater facility in Otay Mesa. Hueso announced that Blackwater now intends to sue the City of San Diego in Federal Court.

Hueso provided no further information, but this latest salvo follows upon a recent torrent of letters, memos, legal opinions and public statements from Blackwater West VP Brian Bonfiglio and Blackwater’s attorneys, from Kelly Broughton, whose Development Services Department issued the initial permit to Blackwater, and from City Attorney Mike Aguirre.

In a letter issued to Bonfiglio last Monday, May 19, Kelly Broughton notified Blackwater of the city’s denial of a certificate of occupancy for Blackwater’s intended purpose, to house a shooting range and military training center. Broughton’s letter references an investigation and report by City Attorney Mike Aguirre prompted by requests in early May by Mayor Jerry Sanders and Congressman Bob Filner. May 16, City Attorney Mike Aguirre produced a memorandum recommending the city issue a stop-work order and withhold the certificate of occupancy for the Blackwater facility at 7685 Siempre Viva Road San Diego, CA 92154. In response to Broughton’s letter and the city attorney’s memo, Blackwater attorneys Neil, Dymott, Frank, McFall & Trexler fired back on May 20 with a letter claiming that the memorandum of City Attorney Aguirre was “fatally flawed,” outlining “salient facts” and demanding that the city issue the certificate of occupancy. In the letter, the firm threatened to take “other steps to enforce and protect Blackwater’s rights” if the city were to fail to respond by Friday (May 23). This morning’s announcement of the impending lawsuit is, apparently, the next step referred to in this letter.

The recent public scrutiny of Blackwater West (largely brought on by their own lawlessness ) is at least in part due to the efforts of Potrero citizens who, over the past year, successfully blocked the development of a proposed 824-acre Blackwater military training center in Potrero, California, 45 miles east of San Diego and a stone’s throw from the US-Mexico border. After a protracted battle with local Potrero residents, Blackwater withdrew its application for the Potrero site on March 7, 2008.

Investigation into the Otay Mesa facility was prompted in late April when Raymond Lutz, local organizer and director of CitizensOversight.org and StopBlackwater.net , received a tip that the facility in Otay Mesa was not as harmless as it appeared. Since then, events have proceeded rapidly and coverage has been widespread by local activist groups like the San Diego Coalition for Peace & Justice and in local and west coast media. The news prompted a public rally and press conference outside the facility on April 25 and calls for Mayor Sanders to respond with investigations into the permits, filed by Blackwater under names of subsidiary companies Southwest Law Enforcement and Raven Development Group. On May 2, Ray Lutz and Congressman Bob Filner were interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! The story was picked up by the LA Times on May 15.

As Blackwater proceeds with the lawsuit against the City of San Diego, they may succeed in bringing this case to national attention.

Click here for a report by Amita Sharma of KPBS, San Diego

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