The Max Madrid lawsuit aimed at clearing a path for Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez to pull papers for a fourth term isn’t the first time a member of the Santa Ana city council attempted to find a loophole to stay in office.
Back in 2000, former council member Ted Moreno told the Los Angeles Times he would resign before an August deadline for candidates to file and run for what amounted to a third term on the city council. Moreno, under indictment at the time with a trial about to start for felony extortion and corruption changes, told the paper a new candidacy would be “the ultimate referendum on his credibility.” Moreno said it was “for the citizens of Santa Ana to decide.”
From the story:
The city’s charter states that council members can serve a total of “two full terms.” But if Moreno resigns before the end of his second term, he would appear to be eligible to run a third time.
City officials on Wednesday could not recall any officeholder who resigned in order to run for reelection since the law passed in 1986.
City Atty. Joseph W. Fletcher said he would render a legal opinion to the city clerk if and when Moreno officially resigns and files for this year’s elections.
But others were critical of Moreno’s action, saying it defied the spirit of the law.
“I don’t know what he’s trying to do other than get around the intent of what term limits is all about,” said Councilman Thomas E. Lutz, who is serving his second and last four-year term. “It is what the citizens voted for when they approved the charter 15 years ago.”
Moreno didn’t resign but was convicted on 25 counts of felony extortion, mail fraud and money laundering charges later in 2000 andwas sentenced in January 2001 to federal prison. Moreno’s conviction in September barred him from holding office under state law. He was eventually replaced by Jose Solorio in Ward 1. And for Moreno apologists suggesting he was only guilty of a white collar crime, felony extortion of more than $30,000 from a Santa Ana business is felony extortion whether Moreno did it or the Mob did. And its as bad as anything Carlos Bustamante is accused of.
Moreno’s end around is likely the reason for an extended wait period in between times an incumbant termed out council member can run for office again. Currently, it’s eight years for every office with the exception of Mayor.
Moreno’s efforts to extend his time on the council never came to pass, but similarities to the Alvarez case are unmistakable. Both Moreno and Alvarez sought to ride their personal popularity wave with voters into extending their terms beyond the legal limit. Moreno’s conviction put an end to his political ambitions. Alvarez is hoping a lawsuit can rule in her favor that Measure D “reset” her terms on the city council at zero.