BY LISA SHIN
When former Councilor Sean Williams resigned, he stated: “I do hope that the County stops considering small business owners a nuisance…Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do anything for small business owners, and as I’ve said before, the County is whistling its way down a very dangerous road…Further inflating the commercial market, thereby cementing the County as the arbiter of who gets to do business, will be disastrous…Indeed, one of the problems with siding against small business owners is that we can leave.” Thus, the community lost his shop, “Automotive Professionals.”
Sirphey’s $5M lawsuit demonstrates yet another casualty for our small business community, and in a rare and unprecedented manner, our local entrepreneur is fighting back.
So far, it’s not looking too good for the County. Separate from the $5M lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, in the 1st Judicial District Court of Los Alamos, County attorneys were ordered to pay all legal fees to Sirphey’s attorneys, which could cost upwards of $30,000. Sharon Dry, candidate for County Council, pointed out that “The recent decision and supporting comments by Judge Lidyard in the Sirphey case shows Council’s failure in dealing with this local business. The Judge harshly rebuked the County’s oversight, appeals process, and decision-making in this case. The result of Council’s mismanagement will now require the taxpayers to pay the cost of unnecessary litigation. Councilor Reagor’s lone decision to oppose the Board of Appeals’ conclusions was the right one in this matter.” In contrast, Councilor Hand voted in favor of the Board of Appeals decision and against Sirphey on March 25, 2022. Previously, on July 14, 2020, Councilor Ryti, as a member of the Board of Appeals, voted against Sirphey.
Indeed, Judge Lidyard did not take too kindly to our Council’s actions:
#21: Appellees did not enter this unchartered territory with caution and circumspection,
decided to disregard fundamental concepts of law and statutory interpretation, and apply a strict
interpretation of the word “finding,” indulging all possible interpretations against upholding its
citizens’ due process right.
#25. The government of Los Alamos County knew at the time of the Council’s review of the
Board’s decision that there were issues with satisfying the obligation under the ordinances and
procedural due process of a findings and decision and to inform Appellant as to why they acted
in the manner that they did.
#26. Despite that knowledge, the Council affirmed the Board’s conclusion of law contained in
#27. The Council then pursued motions to dismiss Appellant’s appeal at every opportunity to
avoid having to correct an error they were well aware of.
#28. The Council had their attorney take the boldest of baseless positions regarding the
interpretation of a word that is clear to any lawyer.
#29. The government of Los Alamos County signed off on these baseless interpretations.
#31. Appellees have violated Appellant’s due process rights by their sanctionable conduct.
In the $5M lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, Councilor Ryti is named as a defendant for his actions. Read about his alleged “direct and obvious conflicts of interest” from the 115 page Sirphey Case filed on 06/22/22 https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PanfwV0Vzwkvn4uMqXDeoUEeGRopzdD-I2ZjrFsFgBU/edit?usp=sharing
On his campaign website, Councilor Ryti acknowledges that high rents and shortage of skilled workers are problems. “I believe the County needs to prioritize assisting small businesses with these issues…by having County staff and outside agencies such as the LACDC and the Chamber establish a one-stop approach for existing or prospective businesses to develop, succeed or expand in our community.” However, he avoids another disastrous problem because he is a part of the problem: The County as the arbiter of who gets to do business, picking winners and losers. His “sanctionable conduct” violating Sirphey’s due process rights and alleged “conflict of interest” in the $5M Sirphey lawsuit put his commitment to small business growth into serious question.
Councilor Melanie Hand’s campaign ad includes “support and attract small businesses.” This should also be questioned, in light of her vote against Sirphey on March 25, 2022. When the opportunity came to hold the County accountable and “remand the matter to the Board for
fulfillment of the obligation under Ordinance 10-84 (right of appeal) and the requirements of due process,” she simply rubber stamped the County Board’s “baseless interpretations.” Such actions do not “support and attract small businesses,” rather it harms and drives them away.
After the election, we will hear more on Sirphey’s $5M lawsuit. Councilor Ryti may be forced to spend even more time, money, and County resources on the lawsuit than on responsibilities on Council. Will he resign and will our Council once again appoint an unelected official to represent us?
Both Councilors Hand and Ryti demonstrate a broad understanding of the issues facing our community. However, based on their actions with Sirphey, they should have omitted “local businesses” and “support and attract small businesses” from their campaign platforms.
Editor’s note; Please note that the links provided in this letter were provided by the author of the letter and not by the Los Alamos Reporter