Couple allege boat was unlawfully seized as part of a government program to clean up derelict vessels - federal law suit alleges many more vessels involved

A California couple is suing the City of Sausalito alleging it unlawfully seized and destroyed their vessel as part of a government program to clean up derelict vessels. The federal law suit also alleges up to 79 other vessels may have experienced a similar, illegal fate.

James and Charlotte Gollub are suing the city, county and a joint agency formed to administer the derelict boat program “Project Eyesore” for US$2 million.

Plaintiff’s attorney Arnold Berschler told the Marin Independent Journal “We are claiming a seizure of property in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which is an unlawful basis to seize property without a warrant,” said Arnold Berschler, the plaintiff’s attorney. “We are also claiming a violation of the Fifth Amendment in two different ways: the government taking a piece of property without compensation and the second way is the government taking property without due process.”

Berschler also said the city did not give the couple a 30-days notice to move their boat or a 15-days notice to bail out after its seizure as required by the California Harbor and Navigation Code. The vessel did not meet the definition of derelict or marine debris, he said.

In 2015, the couple hired a contractor to refurbish Miss Fitz, for about US$97,000, Berschler said. He docked the vessel at a mooring buoy he rented. The boat slipped anchor and washed up in Richmond Wharf in January of last year.

The vessel was seized, transported to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers under police guard and ordered to be destroyed by city officials, the lawsuit states.

The defendants deny the claims. A settlement conference is schedule for next week and no trial date has been set.