The Coastal Post - May, 1996

Injunction Filed To Block Buck Aging Center Construction

A motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the Buck Aging Center from proceeding with its $100 million construction project has been filed with the Marin Superior Court by the Committee to Save Mt. Burdell. The motion was filed in response to Buck Center Director Mary McEachron's April 3, 1996 letter to the Committee's attorney, J. William Yeates, stating that the project would proceed with construction on May 3 in defiance of the countywide vote reversing the Marin County Board of Supervisors' approval of the project.

A hearing on the lawsuit filed by the Buck Aging Center opponents to uphold the defeat of Measure A, a referendum which overturned county approval of the Buck Aging Center development, is scheduled to be heard on May 2 at 9 a.m. before Marin Superior Court Judge Peter Allen Smith. After the hearing the judge has 90 days to render a decision.

The letter from McEachron stated that the Buck Aging Center intends to proceed with construction the day after the hearing, whether or not a court decision on the lawsuit has been issued.

The Buck Aging Center has threatened to seek a $2.1 million bond for any injunction filed, claiming economic loss from construction delays. But financial experts have informed the Committee to Save Mt. Burdell that the Buck Aging Center can claim no economic loss because it collects interest on its $4.5 million a year endowment from the Buck Trust. As a result, the center actually makes, not loses, money by delaying construction. A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for May 2 as well.

The Buck Center for Research in Aging suffered a bruising defeat at the polls last November as Marin voters voted "No" on Measure A in spite of the Buck Center's $740,000 campaign to persuade them to vote "Yes." The current legal conflict was created by the Buck Center's failed attempt to force an early election in Novato that would have removed their property from county jurisdiction before the November vote on Measure A.

Opponents of the Buck Center have offered to make peace with the Buck Center if the Buck Center withdraws its project and begins a dialogue with the community that would lead to a Buck Center a majority of Marin voters would support. The Buck Center has, to date, refused the offer.

In that regard, the Committee to Save Mt. Burdell released a confidential letter from Supervisor Gary Giacomini to Buck Aging Center Director Mary McEachron which it obtained last week blasting McEachron because members of the Buck Aging Center Board were "consorting" with the Center's "enemies" without notifying him or gaining his permission.

At issue was a meeting between two Buck Center Board members and a Marin physician who suggested an alternative research focus that would resolve the decade-long controversy over the Buck Center's plans. The meeting was organized by 4th District Supervisor candidate Steve Kinsey. Giacomini's letter dated February 22 complains to McEachron that Buck Aging Center Board Members gave Kinsey a competitive advantage over candidates Judy Arnold and John Hess. All three supported the Buck Aging Center's going ahead with construction after the November countywide "no" vote. He also complained that any negotiations with the center's "enemies" took place at all.

Buck Board Member Nancy Swadesh, in her letter of resignation from the Buck Aging Center Board last month, indicated that Supervisor Giacomini plays an inappropriate role in the operations of the Buck Center.

The Committee to Save Mt. Burdell, Marin Action and other organizations opposing the Buck Center have requested the Board of Supervisors ask the California Attorney General to investigate the issues raised by Swadesh in her letter of resignation, including allegations that Giacomini improperly influences the actions of the Buck Center.