Measure A takes on council terms

Proponents, opponents submit ballot arguments
By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
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Even after the Nov. 2 election, it may not be clear who will sit on the Loomis town council. If Measure A, the term limits initiative, passes — and if incumbents Walt Scherer and Miguel Ucovich win their bids for re-election — there are bound to be legal questions that may be decided in court. It’s the provision of the Measure A that makes it retroactive to Aug. 1, 2010 that Dave Larsen, town attorney, feels is illegal. “I’ll bet my last dollar,” that it will be thrown out in court, Larsen said during a special council meeting Saturday called to consider rebuttal language opposing the initiative. The council had to submit the rebuttal to county elections by Monday, the same day proponents were to submit their rebuttal statement. Larsen told the council it is his opinion that term limits may not be applied retroactively. Measure A states: “Any council member, who has served two consecutive terms as of August 1, 2010, shall be ineligible to serve as a council member again until eight years have passed since the last four year term was served.” According to Town Clerk Crickett Strock, Scherer is serving his fifth term on the council, although he took a 4-year break in the 1990s. Ucovich is serving his third term. If Ucovich and Scherer are re-elected, and if Measure A passes, under Measure A they can not be seated. According to Larsen, the council would then make appoints from the general public. But which councilmembers would make the appointments is not clear. Larsen said Ucovich and Scherer could choose to ask a judge to issue a temporary or permanent injunction on Measure A and could be seated on the council. Until a court rules otherwise, they would serve on the council. Ucovich and Scherer, whose term ends in mid-December, could also be part of the council that would make the council appointments. Who would pay for any legal filings is also in question. “The individual councilmembers could hire their own attorney, the town council could decide they want me or somebody else to represent them, or they could do nothing,” Larsen said. Sonja Cupler, a term limits committee founder, addressed the retroactive issue at the Aug. 14 meeting. “The very council that voted to save the town money by placing the original term limits measure on the November ballot with an August 1, 2010 effective date and voted in their own resolution with very same effective date is now potentially poised to challenge the measure in court after the election results are determined,” Cupler said. Cupler also claims the town is spending town funds to fight the measure. “There is an inappropriate use of public monies to oppose” term limits, she said. The expenditures, she said, are in the “town attorney’s time to write legal opinions, the town manager’s time to write reports, the town staff’s time to coordinate all of these meetings, and the town facilities to hold them.” Beck told the Loomis News in July that the job of staff is to gather information for council when decisions need to be made, including information on the term limits issue. Larsen agreed it’s not improper use of town resources. “Because the law only allows the council to submit an argument in rebuttal against the measure, once the council has decided to do so, staff needs to open the doors and take other steps necessary to allow the meeting to occur so council can discuss the issue,” Larsen said.