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Country club lawsuits proliferate

The various lawsuits connected to the 110-acre Escondido Country Club property continue to proliferate.

There was already a lawsuit by Escondido Country Club Home Owners against the city of Escondido over the city council’s action last year of approving of the “Villages” 380-unit project on property owned by Michael Schlesinger—who has an agreement with New Urban West Inc. (NUWI) to develop the property.

ECCHO filed its lawsuit against the city on December 15. This was then complicated when ECCHO temporarily lost its legal status as a corporation.

The city of Escondido in March asked the judge to dismiss the case. The city attorney claimed ECCHO no longer existed in a legal sense because it hadn’t filed the proper paperwork and paid its taxes.

The residents of the Country Club area have been fighting for nearly five years to prevent the development from going through in its current form.

Then last week the always combative Michael Schlesinger of Stuck in the Rough LLC filed a lawsuit in Vista Superior Court naming the five new directors of ECCHO, seeking $100 million in damages. The recently installed directors are Francis Freyne, Gary Johnston, Constance Smeyres, Betty Ferrell and Gary Vest.

Schlesinger’s attorney claimed the ECCHO lawsuit was fraudulent due to the problems it had maintaining its corporate status.  This echoed the claim that Escondido City Attorney Michael R. McGuinness made a few weeks ago.

ECCHO accused Schlesinger of filing a frivolous lawsuit without any merit and of engaging in “bullying” tactics.  Schlesinger is known for playing hardball in his fight with the Country Club residents. Several years ago, in the midst of one of the more intense phases of this battle, Schlesinger dumped a truckload of chicken manure on the former golf course.   He bought the distressed property in 2012 and closed the country club in 2013.

Earlier this week the ECCHO board president Gary Vest sent out this message: “The ECCHO Board of Directors is pleased to report that the issue relating to ECCHO’s legal status has been corrected and ECCHO’s legal status has been fully restored. Following an investigation, the current ECCHO Board determined that former ECCHO Board Members were given inaccurate professional advice regarding the filing of tax returns. That administrative error has been fully corrected.”

It added,” ECCHO will continue to pursue its legal efforts to set aside the improper approval of a 380-unit project on the former site of the Escondido Country Club. Ongoing donations to support our fight are extremely important. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.”

NUWI has said that it will not move forward with developing the property until after the ECCHO lawsuit is resolved.

The judge in the case has scheduled a hearing for May the various motions, including the one by the city asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.

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