Councilman Demands Refund Of Attorney Fees For Bad Advice On Pot Dispensaries

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MediLeaf
The little dispensary that could: MediLeaf is still open in Gilroy, Calif.

​Gilroy, Calif., Councilman Perry Woodward has called for a “full refund” of legal fees from the city’s contracted law firm after learning that Gilroy’s assistant city attorney advised the neighboring City of Los Altos to take a “diametrically opposed” stance on banning marijuana dispensaries, reports Jonathan Partridge at the Gilroy Dispatch.

Woodward urged the council to demand restitution for all legal fees paid to hired attorney Linda Callon of San Jose-based law firm Berliner-Cohen in connection with regulating medical marijuana dispensaries. According to the Dispatch, the councilman has sent emails to fellow council members, city administrators and Callon herself.

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Photo: City of Gilroy
Gilroy Council Member Perry Woodward

​Callon gave the council bad advice on two occasions, according to Woodward.
Woodward said the first came earlier this year when Callon dissuaded the council from enacting an ordinance banning dispensaries, and the second occasion was on Nov. 16 when Callon talked council members out of discussing in open session a potential lawsuit against a dispensary.
The council ended up discussing the dispensary lawsuit in closed session. Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy ruled this was a violation of the state’s Brown Act, which dictates open government. Judge Murphy cited this violation Tuesday as the reason he rejected Gilroy’s latest attempt to shut down the dispensary.
“Turns out [Callon’s] standard argument that an open session would have compromised the city’s litigation position was 180 degrees wrong,” Woodward wrote. “The closed session was what substantially compromised the city’s litigation position” he wrote in his email.
Woodward recalled he had asked Callon whether the city should pass an ordinance banning marijuana dispensaries after an Oct 12 council meeting at which the council voting against legislation that would have created regulations allowing the collectives. Callon said at the time, according to Woodward, that an ordinance was unnecessary.
Gilroy’s Assistant City Attorney Jolie Houston, who also works at Callon’s firm, Berliner-Cohen, recently advised the City of Los Altos to pass two ordinances banning dispensaries, “advice that is diametrically opposed to the advice we received from you,” Woodward wrote to Callon.
Judge Murphy rejected Gilroy’s request for an injunction against Medileaf, a dispensary that opened last month without a business license, ruling that the dispensary would not cause “irreparable harm,” as claimed by the city, by staying open. The judge added that more harm would be done to MediLeaf’s business and customers if it had to close.
The judge said it was “not clear whether the city would prevail” when the case goes to trial.
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