With April 5 Deadline Looming, Elk Grove City Council Could Discuss Possible Civil Right Violations in Closed Session

March 24, 2018 | Even though they will face a relatively light agenda for their regular meeting, the Elk Grove City Council may wel...

March 24, 2018 |

Even though they will face a relatively light agenda for their regular meeting, the Elk Grove City Council may well discuss possible litigation behind closed doors on Wednesday, March 28.

For the closed session agenda for the Wednesday meeting, there is one agenda item for a conference for legal counsel on four matters exposing the city of Elk Grove to litigation. State law allows legislative bodies to discuss such issues in closed session.

Although the four matters of potential litigation are not specified, it is known that the city is facing the possibility of a civil and voters rights suit from Malibu, California-based attorney Kevin Shenkman on behalf of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. In a demand letter sent to the city, Shenkman said if the city does not take action by April 5, 2018, on alleged civil and voter rights violations, they will seek a legal remedy.

In his letter, Shenkman said the city's continued use of from-district, or sometimes referred to as at-large elections, is a violation of the California Voters Right Act of 2001. Specifically, Shenkman and his client assert at-large elections act to suppress Latino representation in Elk Grove.

In the current system, council members are from a defined geographic district but elected by voters on a citywide basis. Among several arguments, critics contend this makes district representatives not reflective of the actual community.

During the Wednesday, March 14 meeting Elk Grove District 1 resident Dennesa Atiles argued that her city council representative, Darren Suen, is more conservative than the district he represents. The reason, Atiles asserted, is that voters in the District 2, which has far greater Republican registration than the densely populated District 1, support conservatives like Suen thereby giving them more influence than they would otherwise have.

When Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly sought to place a discussion of dropping the current at-large system on a future city council agenda during the March 14 session, his suggestion was met with silence from his four city council colleagues. Suen, along with fellow conservatives on the council, Steve Detrick, Pat Hume, and Stephanie Nguyen, have defended the current at-large system saying it makes them more responsive to voters.

Shenkman has successfully sued other cities under the CVRA, most notably the city of Palmdale, California. That Los Angeles County city fought litigation pursued by Shenkman, lost and cost taxpayers over $12 million.

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Connie said...

So heartened today by all the energetic young people around the Country who will make a change in our government. Equally, I am encouraged by all the people now getting involved in our local government like Dennesa Atiles.

It is very ironic that the only regular agenda item at Wednesday’s Elk Grove City Council meeting, along with special closed meeting to discuss another four matters of significant exposure to litigation, is the Community Service Grants (CSG). The Elk Grove City Council will be deciding which non-profits will be receiving the $380,000 allocated this year. Over the years, we have seen that amount steadily decrease due to budget cuts.

If this Elk Grove City Council decides to circle their wagons because they fear holding on to the council seats with by-district voting, how much will the CSG monies be reduced in the future? If this city council, by their own doing and they will have to own it, force the taxpayers to pay upwards to 12 million dollars in legal fees for yet another lawsuit as Kevin Shenkman, Esq. made it crystal clear he is not afraid to sue for what is our lawful right to by-district voting.

BTW, where is Assembly member Jim Cooper? Doesn’t he stand by his legislation? He should be up at the podium at an Elk Grove City Council meeting and stand up for the by-district legislation he authored.

Back on topic: Where is the Elk Grove City Council going to get those tens millions of dollars that would be money wasted on a by-district lawsuit? Anyone going to get a kick back from Kronick Moskovitz for the outsourcing millions in legal fees?

The Council wants a sells tax increase, yet they are spending money like water, such as spatial needs study of $400K, adding high-paying jobs such as another city attorney – when hiring City Attorney Jon Hobbs was supposed to save $50K a year – and an assistant for Economic Development Director Darrel Doan – just to mention a few new positions added.

Never mind we don’t have 10-million dollars to fix our city’s deteriorating roads and the Council just approved a 40-million-dollar bond measure to pay for the civic center project buildings.

The Elk Grove City Council must stop spending money we don’t have. Debt like this will most definitely lead to tax increases – more Mello Roos taxes or CFDs for those unsuspecting homeowners in Laguna Ridge and the SEPA – and that in turn will stifle job growth.

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

Regarding Mr. Ly's request to discuss dropping the at-large system, as many of us may recall, it was not that long ago he too was opposed to the by-district form of representation. Remember the comments about the club?

Given that:
a.) He has not one ally on the city council and
b.) he still has to be elected citywide as mayor;

It is no surprise he would like nothing more than castrate his four colleagues and make his position more powerful.

However, if Mr. Ly is now supporting the by-district, he is only doing it out of election year necessity and free of any conviction. The day Mr. Ly offers full-throated support for the change, and does it someplace outside of council deliberations, he might be considered something more than an empty suit.

Given his history, I would not place any money on that proposition.

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