Farmer sues county; alleges conspiracy

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Another $10M lawsuit against Santa Barbara county by Emilio Sutti. This one’s from 2001 and alleges “conspiracy” as well. This one includes Melville. Farmer sues county; alleges conspiracy By Karen White — Staff Writer 12/19/01 A long-time Santa Maria dairyman and farmer who alleged his family has been the target of a government conspiracy since January 2000, has filed a $10 million dollar civil suit charging Santa Barbara County with 17 different causes of action. Emilio Sutti, serving as his own attorney, filed the suit with the Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria Nov. 28. The suit seeks $10 million in punitive damages and incidental and special damages for such items as business losses and trade damages. The action comes after the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner’s office allegedly refused to issue permits allowing the company to spray agricultural chemicals on crops. Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville has been assigned the case, with a first hearing on April 2, 2002. Sutti also claims county employees spent an inordinate amount of time on his properties. At one point a farm foreman allegedly found a senior county agricultural inspector hiding among the weeds in the dark after normal work hours, allegedly attempting (unsuccessfully) to catch the Sutti family’s Green Valley farming corporation in some type of violation, according to the suit. Sutti alleges his farming operations, and those in partnership with his son, Ed Sutti, have been the target of various actions by Santa Barbara County. The targeting started, the suit claims, with a lengthy battle in court between Ed Sutti and Santa Barbara County Planning and Development over alleged environmental and grading ordinance violations. Sutti won a partial court victory in this case, which continues to be the subject of an appeal. Later Ed Sutti was arrested on an 11-count felony criminal indictment charging arson, intimidation of witnesses and victims, making terrorist threats, making false statement to an insurer, false deposition and four counts of state income tax evasion. A trial in the case is slated by spring. The newest civil suit represents various Sutti farming and cooling operations, including Farming Enterprises, Green Valley Farms, Agland Venture Capital Group Inc. and Cal Western Cooling, along with Sutti and his wife, Irene Sutti. The suit is filed against Santa Barbara County; the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office; William D. Gillette, county ag commissioner, and other commission officials, Debra C. Trupe, Mike R. Champions and Does 1 through 100. Ag commissioner Gillette said Tuesday he had no knowledge of the suit being filed. Sutti charges the county denied his company’s requests for annual spray permits in January 2000. In April 2000, Green Valley hired an agricultural consultant to deal with spraying, since its farming operation was allegedly being critically impaired because of its inability to spray chemicals on its crops without an annual spray permit. The consultant also was denied a spray permit. Later, county officials also issued orders preventing broccoli on the farms from being harvested, allegedly despite the fact that independent testing showed crops were within acceptable tolerance levels, with no illegal chemicals found. Sutti and his company filed a claim March 26 for its losses because of the county action denying the permit. Four weeks later, on April 30, 2001, the company received its annual spraying permit without any challenges. The $10 million punitive suit comes on an allegation that the county’s actions were conducted “with oppression and malice and/or willfully and was meant to cause injury to plaintiffs.” As a result, the claim states the Suttis have sustained damages consisting of loss of crops, loss of use, loss of product, loss of sales, increased expenses and/or loss of profits. Sutti’s suit also charges intentional and/or negligent interference with perspective economic advantages. intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, trespass, conversion, constructive eviction, wrongful eviction, negligent, slander, libel, breach of fiduciary duty, inverse condemnation, jury against property, forcible entry and discrimination/violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Staff staff writer Karen White can be reached at (805) 739-2217 or by e-mail at :nav Source:

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