Town turns to attorney general to resolve term limits

Loomis council votes to send letter for a speedy resolution
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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The Loomis Town Council has voted to send a letter to the state attorney general to seek a speedy resolution as to the legality of Measure A. During a public workshop held on Feb. 4 to determine how council should proceed, Perry Beck, town manager, said the town has already spent approximately $25,000 in legal fees to produce two briefs arguing both sides of the term limit issue. “We’re in a mess. I’d like to see this end soon. This can be very divisive for the town,” said Greg Obranovich, former planning commissioner. According to Dave Larsen, town attorney, 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.” Voters approved the term limits initiative on Nov. 2 and also re-elected multi-term councilmen Walt Scherer and Miguel Ucovich. The briefs were produced after the council decided in December to file a quo warranto lawsuit with the state attorney general in an attempt to clarify the legality of the retroactive clause. Larsen said those briefs will now be used to draft a letter presenting both sides of the argument that will be sent to Attorney General Kamala Harris. “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 rethinking the quo warranto process. “No council members have said they want to overturn Measure A,” Beck said. Scherer said, “Term limits are the law of the land. We’re trying to figure out how to implement them legally. We’re not playing any games.” Randy Elder, of Loomis, accused the council of “creating smoke screens” to keep themselves in office. “The intent of the voters was not to have Walt and Miguel in office. You need to uphold that. Let the attorney general decide,” Elder said. Bob Rhodes, of Loomis, suggested that Ucovich and Scherer resign. Irene Smith, also of Loomis, said the voters re-elected the men and those voters’ rights need to be protected. Planning Commissioner Janet Thew said, “My rights need to be respected. I voted for Walt and Miguel. They won legitimately,” Thew said. Councilwoman Sandra Calvert called the situation “very perplexing” and suggested the parties come together to draft a legal form of term limits and put it on the ballot in the next election. After discussion of that option, it was determined that it would be too far in the future before that might happen. Beck said staff members at the attorney general’s office stated it should take two to three months to receive a response from the attorney general once a letter is received. He expects it will take at least two more weeks for outside legal counsel to draft a letter and may cost up to $10,000 more in attorney fees.