Preliminary Ruling Goes Against Costa Mesa

Monday was a bad day in court for the for the City of Costa Mesa in its effort to rush to the ballot Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer’s City Charter Initiative.

Having failed to meet the filing deadline, the Costa Mesa City Clerk, Julie Folcik, filed suit to force County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelly to change the rules and place the initiative on the ballot. Judge Franz Miller’s preliminary ruling rejected the city’s attempt to use the City Clerk as the petitioner in the suit since she is not a Costa Mesa resident and does not allege individual harm.

Miller writes in the preliminary ruling that the city’s “attempt to create dichotomy between clerk and counsel is clever, but unsuccessful. The petitioner has not demonstrated Kelly had a mandatory duty (to file the untimely charter resolution) he did not perform, or that Kelly had any discretion to abuse when rejecting the tardy filing, as statute is mandatory; in any event CM has shown no irreparable harm if election is delayed until November.”

After nearly two hours of arguments earlier in the day, Miller ruled that four Costa Mesa residents, John B. Stephens, Katrina Foley, Billy Folsom and Mary Spadoni are “sufficiently interested” and can intervene to present their arguments during the hearing on the case today. Stephens, an attorney argued; “Somebody had to step in here, or this whole thing would have gone down in secret.”

Miller’s final ruling is expected to be swift in order to allow the losing party or parties to appeal. Neal Kelly has said that his deadline to place the initiative on the ballot is April 1st.  The lesson here is pay attention to deadlines.