Part II: Flaws in California city attorney's opinions often exposed when challenged - Aided by city attorney, Oxnard City Council tries suppressing voters' rights


Not My Money! 

In the first part of this series, it was illustrated how Elk Grove city attorney Jonathan Hobbs has frequently given bum legal advice to the Elk Grove City Council at great expense to taxpayers. But as they say on the city council and the executive suite at Elk Grove City Hall, Not My Money!

While Hobbs' actions could be done in his self-interest - after all, as one of the highest-paid regional municipal employees, why risk upsetting the five city council members who provide you with the extremely generous compensation plan.

Nonetheless, city attorneys acting in their interest and politicians over the taxpayers are not the exclusive domain of Elk Grove. Another recent flawed legal advice came from the Southern California city of Oxnard in Ventura County.

In a recent California Second Appellate District Court published decision, it was determined Oxnard, based on the opinion of their city attorney and ordinance passed by the city council, "served to deny voters their rights guaranteed by the Election Code" (see opinion below).

The case started after Aaron Starr, who operates the citizen advocacy group the Coalition for Moving Oxnard Forward, organized an initiative on term limits. The initiative would have extended the directly elected mayor position from two years to four years; it would have established a two-term limit for a council member seat and mayoral position, and it would have allowed a person to run again after a two-year gap.

In October 2019, the Oxnard City Council placed its Measure B on the March 2020 ballot. Similar to Starr's initiative, this measure would extend the mayoral term to four years but did not impose any breaks in holding a city council position.   

Before Starr delivered the initiative in January 2020, the city exercised its option under state election code section 9215 and adopted his language as an ordinance without alteration. Read the entire scenario here. 

As noted by Moving Oxnard Forward, "Contradicting advice he gave the council in October that changing the mayor’s term required going to a ballot, the City Attorney then [in January] told the city council they should go ahead and adopt our measure 'in an effort to save costs of an election.'"

This was when the Oxnard city government chicanery began.  

Starr's initiative was never placed on the ballot as it should have in November 2020, but Measure B was placed on the March 2020 ballot and was approved.  Essentially, the city council, on the advice of the city manager and attorney, adopted the language of Starr's initiative but had it overturned by their initiative weeks later. 

Starr fought back, and while they lost in the trial, the Appellate Court overturned the city council's actions. As noted in their decision, the Appellate justices wrote, "A city council enacted an ordinance that served to deny voters their rights" and "there are significant differences in the way Measure B and Starr’s initiative amends and adds to those sections of the city code. The voters have the right to decide Starr’s initiative."

As this case demonstrates, city attorneys display a willingness to bend to the pleasures of their masters. In Elk Grove, city attorney Hobbs' bending to the wills of the city council has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars we are aware of and quite possibly more that we do not know about while in Oxnard, their city attorney is more than happy to subvert voters rights to satisfy the political needs of their city council. 

With the coming zoo project, Elk Grove citizens, take note of any advice coming from Hobbs that conforms to Mayor Singh-Allen and her four subordinates' wishes. So hold on to your wallet because if Hobbs has shown any consistency, it is to please the council members even if it cost taxpayers dearly. 

But as they say on the dais and the city hall executive suite, Not My Money! 


    
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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

City Attorney's 5-step Decision-making Flow Chart

1. Is the advice coherent? If yes or no, proceed to Step 2

2. Can I farm this out to Kronick, Moscovitch? If no, proceed to Step 3.

3. Does this adversely impact a campaign contributor or developer? If yes, scrap the deal. If no, proceed to Step 4

4. Does the affected Party have to potential to sue? If yes, scrap the deal. If no, proceed to Step 5

5. Are any EGN "gnats" watching? Yes, or No, Proceed!!!!

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