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Does Imperial Beach Mayor’s Participation in Climate Change Litigation Raise Conflicts of Interest?

Mayor Dedina participates on a panel at a Union of Concerned Scientists sponsored-conference in January at UCLA

Imperial Beach, California Mayor Serge Dedina may have some explaining to do over his role in a controversial lawsuit. The part-time mayor’s full-time job is the executive director of WildCoast, an environmental advocacy group that he founded 17 years ago.  In this lawsuit, there is concern that he is leveraging his platform as mayor to advance the interests of his own advocacy group at the expense of the common good.

The lawsuit alleges that companies that make and sell lawful energy products, such as gasoline for cars and fuel to provide electricity to cool our homes and power our manufacturing plants should pay for local infrastructure projects in Imperial Beach that he claims are needed because of climate change.  From a liability perspective, the U.S. Supreme Court has already rejected similar lawsuits in the past. Practically speaking, the lawsuit will raise the costs of gasoline, electricity, and other energy products that residents of Imperial Beach and elsewhere rely on every day to be affordable and available.

So, why did Mayor Dedina file this lawsuit?

Here is what we know: Mayor Dedina receives more than $100,000 annually from WildCoast1. The group is reliant on raising money from those who support, among other things, the protection of coastal areas in California.  In the lawsuit he filed for Imperial Beach, he is seeking to fund specific projects related to the protection of coastal areas in California.  According to Mayor Dedina, Imperial Beach was the first California city to launch this lawsuit2. There are now several California communities bringing comparable lawsuits. Further, at Mayor Dedina’s urging, the city hired the law firm Sher Edling LLP.

The questions this lawsuit and arrangement raise are plentiful.

Is this what it appears to be – a politically motivated lawsuit to do WildCoast’s bidding?  What about the principles of sound governance or doing what’s best for Imperial Beach?  Why is Mayor Dedina putting WildCoast’s political agenda above the common good?  Does Mayor Dedina know when his day job ends and his service in city hall begins?

Also, why did Mayor Dedina insist on hiring this particular law firm?  Was there any competitive bidding process in hiring this law firm?  Is there any connection between Sher Edling and WildCoast?  How much money does Sher Edling stand to make from this litigation?  How can the public be assured no money from any of these lawsuits will flow to WildCoast?


As we said, Mayor Dedina has some explaining to do.