By Edward Snook
Sacramento, CA – On January 11, 2005 Arbitrator and retired Judge William M. Gallagher ruled against two men who had their boats towed from their mooring location on the Sacramento River.
According to the owners of the two boats, Robert (Butch) Rawlings and Eugene Isaacson they were in a dispute with an adjacent property owner named Shawn Berrigan, a one time code enforcement officer for the city of Sacramento and a current building field inspector (according to the Sacramento city web site). Berrigan attempted to force Rawlings and Isaacson to move their boats claiming they were blocking ingress and egress to the Courtland Docks, which Berrigan claims ownership of. Expert witnesses have stated that the boats were not blocking the Docks.
After numerous verbal altercations Berrigan obtained the help of Deputy Don Hyatt from the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office. Hyatt immediately took Berrigan’s side and talks of having the boats towed ensued. At one point Hyatt arrested Rawlings for blocking access to Courtland Docks; however the charges were later dropped by the District Attorney.
Isaacson and Rawlings then went to the US Coast Guard Station and spoke with an officer Daughty. The officer informed the two that he didn’t see anything wrong with where their boats were anchored especially if they were willing to give Berrigan access to tie up. When they confronted Berrigan, telling him he could have access he reportedly stated that this wasn’t good enough and that he wanted the boats out of there.
Eventually Deputy Hyatt agreed to okay the towing of the boats even though he had no jurisdiction to do so after Berrigan agreed to pay for moorage at Cliffs Marina. Tom Decker agreed to tow the boats and Bob McDaris of Cliff’s Marina agreed to moor them after Berrigan agreed to cover any liabilities and pay for the towing and moorage. The towing agreement fraudulently lists Cliff’s Marina and the Sacramento County Sheriffs Office as the owners of the boats. The boats were then towed with authorization coming from Deputy Hyatt. All parties were informed prior to towing that Rawlings and Isaacson would consider it theft if anyone removed their boats.
Berrigan’s true intentions became clear when he offered to settle the whole issue if Rawlings would sell him his property.
According to Isaacson his boat had been anchored at the same location for more than fifteen months without complaint from the United States Coast Guard, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office or the previous owners of Courtland Docks.
On November 30, 2004 Deputy Hyatt wrote a false report showing that Isaacson’s agent Robert Rawlings was cited by the United States Coast Guard. No citations had ever been issued by the Coast Guard.
Next, on November 30, 2004 Deputy Hyatt wrote a “Recovered Vessel Report” showing that Isaacson’s boat was towed to Cliff’s Marina when the tow did not even take place until December 14, 2004.
On February 3, 2005, Lieutenant Mike Sales of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office stated to Isaacson’s attorney and Rawlings that the Sheriff’s Office had nothing to do with the towing of the boats and that the matter was a civil matter. Lt. Sales also stated the Coast Guard authorized the towing. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request the Coast Guard has no record of ever authorizing a tow or impound of the boats.
This case is literally packed with lies and dis-information, yet no one has questioned the actions of Deputy Hyatt or Shawn Berrigan.
Further Observer investigating has discovered that Shawn Berrigan and his partner Diane House were sent a letter by Michael Valentine, Chief Land Management Division of the California State Lands Commission.
Mr. Valentine states in his letter to Berrigan and House, “In addition it appears that you are engaging in activities that have not been authorized by the State Lands Commission. First, you have occupied State sovereign lands adjacent to your property in Courtland by occupying docks previously placed there and by installing additional docks all without the authority given by or compensation to the Commission on behalf of the State. Please remove your boat from the premises until the Commission has approved a lease to you of the premises. Consequently, you are directed to stop living aboard your boat or to move it to another location where residential use is permitted or there is no State ownership interest. Lastly, it is our understanding that you are renting out some of these docks to third parties. Such businesses may only be conducted on State lands after the State has entered into a lease with the business owner. In this instance there is no lease between you and the Commission and the commission has not authorized you to conduct marina activities on its lands. In short, you are in occupancy of State property without authority and without payment of any rent to the State and you are charging third parties for the use of State property. Therefore, you are directed to stop engaging in such an activity immediately.”
We are informed that Berrigan is still living on the boat as he was in early August and that the California State Lands Commission has taken no further action. It’s amazing that someone such as Berrigan can ignore the law and get away with it. It must be that he has ties with California government from when he was a code enforcement officer or he has some influential person working on his behalf or both.
Rawlings and Isaacson should have won their arbitration but the case was overseen by a biased judge. Now they are forced to spend thousands more taking their case to Superior Court.
The Observer is asking anyone with information on Deputy Don Hyatt, tow boat operator Tom Decker, Bob McDaris of Cliff’s Marina or Shawn Berrigan to call 541-474-7885. We especially would like to know if any of the above knew each other prior to the boats being towed. Butch Rawlings and Eugene Isaacson both believe that their boats were stolen and all evidence points to that conclusion. Help us stop this chicanery and make things right on the Sacramento River.