By Amanda Beck
Yorba Linda – John W. Taylor is a man who captures the attention of those who look askance at Yorba Linda's city government.
But Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed the final elements of a civil-rights case that Taylor had hoped would put the city on trial.
"To say we were taken aback is ... an understatement,'' Taylor said. "We were preparing questions for witnesses. We thought we were picking a jury Tuesday morning.''
Though Taylor says he will seek grounds for appeal, the judge's decision ends, at least for now, nearly four years of antagonism between the city's current leaders and Taylor, a losing candidate from the 2000 City Council elections.
Taylor had argued that because he suggested eliminating the city's contract with the Brea Police Department, some officers and council members had undermined -- even sabotaged -- his bid for a seat.
He complained, for example, that police interrupted him and his volunteers on several occasions while they tried to post campaign signs.
But in a series of dismissals over the past 18 months, a federal court had winnowed away his case until, on Tuesday, there was nothing left.
Members of the city government point to the decision as proof that Taylor's claims have never been anything more than paranoia.
"What that really means ... is that we spent $221,000 on this lawsuit that I said was frivolous from the very beginning,'' said Mayor Ken Ryan, who had been named as a defendant.
"And he had guts enough, at one time, to complain about the legal bills in Yorba Linda,'' added Councilman Jim Winder, also named in the suit.
During the City Council campaign and afterward, Taylor presented himself as an anti-establishment candidate and a resident who wanted to change how the city conducts its business.
It is unclear whether Taylor's message still resonates with a wide portion of the city or if he is only a man on his own crusade.
But there are undercurrents in the community that hint at a quiet discontent with City Hall, which has at times been criticized for litigation and fiscal irresponsibility.
Recently, the city unsuccessfully attempted to annex two pieces of county land. Some residents who opposed the effort said they did so because they didn't like the way the city is managed.
"I've lived here for 40-plus years ... but in those years, I've seen it go from being run pretty well to not being run well at all,'' resident Glen Hardwick said at the time.
And Taylor seems to personify a bit of that sentiment.
"He represents hope to a lot of us,'' resident Dawn Muranka said. "He's the person who will stand up for the little guy.''
One can even sense that in Taylor's reaction to the dismissal of the lawsuit, which he said denies him a day in court.
"I have not had the opportunity to have this out in front of a jury ... I am willing to live with their decision, but ... I'm being shut out,'' Taylor said.