Wednesday Nov 17 2010
Town asks for ruling
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
Council wants court clarification on retroactive start date
A superior court judge will be asked to decide the legality of Measure A’s retroactive start date. The Loomis town council voted at their Nov. 9 meeting to seek clarification from a judge as to the legality of the Aug. 1, 2010 retroactive start date for the council term limits initiative. Voters approved Measure A on election day. The initiative states that councilmembers may serve two consecutive terms in office, then must stay off the council for two terms. “We have to be sure that what we’re enforcing is legal,” said Dave Larsen, town attorney. According to section 36502 (b) of the California code, “Any proposal to limit the number of terms a member of the city council may serve on the city council, or the number of terms an elected mayor may serve, shall apply prospectively only.” The dictionary definition of “prospective” is “of or in the future.” During the council meeting, members of the public commented on Measure A. The council then went into closed session to discuss possible litigation involving the measure’s retroactivity. Planning Commissioner Jean Wilson said, “The town needs judicial clarification. Let a decision be made so the town can move on.” Hazel Hineline, a former councilmember and mayor, asked the council to hold a public meeting on term limits because many people were confused. Councilmember Rhonda Morillas said the people had already spoken with their votes and another meeting was not needed. Nancy Beck asked the council to “turn this over to the courts to be fair to all parties involved.” In letters submitted to the council, term limit supporter Tom Millward recommended that if a judge determines that the retroactive date is not allowed, then the start date should be changed to 30 days after the election. Sonja Cupler, another term limits supporter, wrote to ask council members involved with Measure A to recuse themselves from voting. Roger Smith wrote in a letter that he did not agree with term limits, but that “the ‘majority’ has spoken.” He said the election results posed “a contradiction” in that Measure A would term out Scherer, but he was also re-elected. Smith posed the question, “How can the will of the voters be followed if Mr. Scherer is not allowed to serve?” Larsen said that during the closed session portion of the council meeting all councilmembers, except Russ Kelley, recused themselves from voting on whether or not to seek court clarification of the retroactive start. Kelley did not recuse himself because he did not seek re-election and would not be affected by Measure A. Larsen said after the recusals, no vote could be taken because the council needs at least three members to take a vote. Larsen said that when recusal does not allow the council to do the business of the town, then straws can be drawn to choose the voting councilmembers. Scherer and Mayor Gary Liss drew the short straws and were not able to vote. Councilmembers Rhonda Morillas and Miguel Ucovich, along with Kelley, were able to vote. Initially, all three voted to seek court clarification, but during the council meeting Kelley changed his vote to “no” because he said he wanted another public meeting to be held on the issue. Larsen said the town is waiting for the election to be certified by the county elections office. “We’ll then file our pleadings. We are only asking the court to look at the retroactive date,” Larsen said. Larsen said the judge could determine whether the retroactive date is part of a separable clause that can be “peeled off” without affecting the rest of the ordinance or if the retroactive date is an integral part of the ordinance.