Although he was not elected Tuesday in the La Canada Flintridge City Council race, Melvin Ricks found personal victory in the results of the campaign.
Ricks said his main objective in running for a seat on the council was to clear his name and "to expose the gross injustice that was heaped upon me and my family."
The city filed misdemeanor charges against Ricks in 1988, accusing him of various grading and permit violations in connection with several construction projects.
In an April 4 announcement, city officials have agreed to pay Ricks $10,000, in return for which Ricks has agreed to drop lawsuits that accused city officials of violating his civil rights. In addition to the payment, city officials have agreed to write an official statement expressing regret for having filed charges.
Incumbent council members Joan Feehan, O. Warren Hillgren, Edmund Krause and former councilman Jack Hastings were among the city officials named in Ricks' lawsuit.
The settlement may bring to an end more than two years' legal squabbling between the city and Ricks, who has said council members plotted to destroy his reputation.
"We had one hell of a strong case," Ricks said. "I had no desire to go through a protracted legal action. An apology is just rhetoric. This was an apology with 10,000 teeth."
Ricks said he will contribute the settlement money to the La Canada Flintridge Educational Foundation, an organization that raises funds for schools in the city. Ricks said he has donated money to the group for about six years.
Ricks has a dental practice in Glendale, but has dabbled in home construction in La Canada Flintridge for several years. He has constructed five homes, including the one in which he lives with his wife, Loretta, and their family.
In May, 1988, work came to a halt on Ricks' properties when the city issued three stop-work orders. One alleged that Ricks was building a retaining wall and bridge on his property in violation of city building codes. Another accused him of constructing retaining walls without a county permit.
The third order alleged that Ricks had unlawfully trimmed a branch from a city-owned oak tree that, he said, was obstructing the entrance to his property.
According to Ricks, he filed for the permit in March and county officials sent him an approved copy, dated April 18. Ricks alleged that members of the City Council deliberately concealed city copies of the document in order to sue him.
"I had the permit," Ricks said. "They hid the county-approved plans and didn't inform me that they were available."
Ricks called the city's action in issuing the stop-work orders "the most blatant violation of anybody's civil rights."
Ricks sees the settlement as a sure sign that his legal problems are coming to an end.
"I think the city has acted and responded to this very responsibly," said Ricks' attorney, Donald K. Fitzpatrick.