Initiative getting costly

Town has spent $20,000 on Measure A legal costs
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Measure A, the term limits initiative, continues to be a controversial and costly issue for the Town of Loomis. Voters approved the term limits initiative on Nov. 2 and also re-elected multi-term councilmen Walt Scherer and Miguel Ucovich. Perry Beck, town manager, announced at the Feb. 11 council meeting that the town has spent more than $26,000 on special outside legal counsel, of which $20,000 was for term limit expenses. He said an additional $10,000 will be needed to cover term limits legal expenses. Earlier, during a public workshop held Feb. 4, the Loomis Town Council voted to send a letter to the state attorney general to seek a speedy resolution as to the legality of Measure A, instead of filing a quo warranto lawsuit. The letter will utilize two briefs already prepared by outside legal counsel on the pros and cons of the retroactive issue. Only the pro side of the legal argument has been reviewed by the public. The con side had not been completed at the time of the meetings, said Dave Larsen, town attorney. “We discovered in a quo warranto that we’re suing ourselves and we’re making Perry (Beck) swear to things we’re not sure he believes,” said councilman Gary Liss, when he explained why the council was not comfortable with the quo warranto process. According to Larsen, at issue is a clause in the term limits measure, passed by voters in November, containing two retroactive statements. One is that the initiative takes effect on a retroactive date and the other that prior terms of current council members are counted. Larsen said state law says that term limits may only be applied “prospectively” — or in the future — and past terms served cannot be counted and the issue should be decided by a “third party neutral.” During the Feb. 11 meeting, Beck shared a letter received from Sonja Cupler, a Measure A proponent. Cupler petitioned the council to require councilmen Walt Scherer and Miguel Ucovich “to abstain from making motions, voting on any and all issues pertaining to the town, and from making any appointments” until the term limits issue is legally resolved. Dave Larsen, town attorney, advised council against agreeing to “some type of blanket abstention.” Larsen said he would continue to advise councilmembers “if I believe you have a conflict of interest.” Bill Branch, a No On Measure A committee member, called Cupler’s letter “absurd” and “vindictive,” and called the term limits initiative “nothing more than a nasty vendetta because they couldn’t defeat these people at the polls.” Branch said the proponents of Measure A “are tearing this town apart just to get rid of the two people they don’t like.” He said the “good people of Loomis” would not have supported the term limits initiative if they had known that. Former councilman Tom Millward, one of the originators of the term limits initiative, told the council, “To spend $20,000 and all this mess going on – I don’t see why we have to do all this. These guys got elected. They should serve. Measure A was passed. It should be the law." Scherer said, “We are going to have term limits in Loomis, but we’re also going to have to be sure every law is legal. We won’t be implementing laws with illegal clauses in them. That is not how government should operate.” Vice Mayor Sandra Calvert said, “Term limits is what the voters want. I am willing to uphold what the voters want.” Council agreed that they would like to review the letter that will go to the attorney general when it is completed. Beck said it could take at least two weeks for a letter to be finished.