Lawsuit In Santa Ana Over Term Limits
Posted by Chris Emami on July 10, 2012
According to the Orange County Register it appears that the City of Santa Ana is going to have a Judge determine whether or not Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez run for a 4th term. She is currently finishing up her 3rd term and needs a ruling quickly on this with filing opening up on Monday for this seat.
This lawsuit comes as a result of the passing of Measure D in Santa Ana back in 2008 which extended it from 2 consecutive terms to 3 consecutive terms a Councilmember can serve. Apparently Santa Ana has a rule that you must sit out 8 consecutive years after you finish your 3rd term (This seems extremely draconian compared to other cities).
It is important to note that the lawsuit has not been filed by Alvarez herself, but instead by Max Madrid a Parks & Recreation Commissioner appointed by Alvarez. Rancho Santa Margarita City Councilman Steve Baric (Vice-Chairman of the California Republican Party) is the attorney on behalf of Madrid on this case.
Based on the way Measure D is written the only change made to Section 401 of the Municipal Code was a simple change to simply the number of consecutive terms a Councilmember can serve. With no other changes being made by the measure it will make it tougher to argue a loophole.
The argument being made by the proponents of the lawsuit appears to be that with the passage of Measure D the term limit count on each Councilmember was reset. I will let you make your own judgement on the interpretation of section 401:
To be eligible to be elected to the office of councilmember, a person must be a qualified voter and a thirty (30) day resident of the ward from which the candidate is nominated at the time nomination papers are issued as provided for in the Elections Code of the State of California, except that the mayor need only be a registered voter and thirty (30) day resident of the city at such time. In the event any councilmember other than the mayor shall cease to be a resident of the ward from which the councilmember (or, in the case of an appointee, the councilmember’s predecessor) was elected, or in the event the mayor shall cease to be a resident of the city, the office shall immediately become vacant and shall be filled in the same manner as herein provided for other vacancies; provided, that where a councilmember ceases to be a resident of the ward from which the councilmember (or, in case of an appointee, the councilmember’s predecessor) was elected solely because of a change in boundaries of any ward as in this charter provided, the councilmember shall not lose the office by reason of such change. If a member of the city council shall be convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, the office shall immediately become vacant and be so declared by the city council.
A person who has served three (3) consecutive terms of four (4) years each shall be eligible for appointment, nomination for or election to the office of councilmember (regardless of wards represented by that person during such period) no sooner than for a term beginning eight (8) years after completion of that councilmember’s third consecutive full term.
Short or partial terms shall not be considered in determining eligibility for appointment, nomination or election. For purposes of this Charter, short or partial terms shall only be those where the councilmember was elected or appointed to replace another councilmember who left office before the latter official’s term expired. Any councilmember who assumed office at the beginning of a term and left office early for any reason whatsoever shall be deemed to have served a full term.
Interestingly this section also points out what will happen to Councilmember Bustamante should he be convicted of the crimes he has been accused of. My interpretation of the section is clear that once you have served three consecutive terms you are termed out. It is not up to me though, as we will have to see what the court says.