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City of Mission Viejo responding to lawsuit that has no merit

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The City is responding to a lawsuit filed in the Orange County Superior Court by a resident opposed to Mission Viejo’s move to district-based voting

Michael Schlesinger is challenging the adoption of the ordinance that implements the City’s new district voting process including how incumbents should be included in the initial election in November 2022. 

The move to district-based elections is something the City and many residents have opposed since the City – like many other cities – was sued by the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, which claimed its at-large election system diluted the vote of the Latino community and violated the California Voting Rights Act. It was determined that Mission Viejo's unique demographic and geographic characteristics made district-based voting a poor remedy to empower minority voters and cure the unintended violation of the California Voting Rights Act identified in 2018. To achieve a remedy, the Orange County Superior Court approved a jointly submitted motion to make cumulative voting a reality in Mission Viejo. However, despite the Council's extraordinary efforts on behalf of this community, the State did not allow the cumulative voting method in Mission Viejo or any City absent legislative action in Sacramento, and the decision was made to move to a district-based election system beginning in November. 

“This lawsuit by Mr. Schlesinger is completely without merit, and the City looks forward to vigorously defending it and prevailing in court,” said City Attorney William Curley. “The City has diligently worked in good faith to lawfully comply with those stipulations and has done just that.” 

The Secretary of State ultimately opposed the implementation of cumulative voting in Mission Viejo, and as a result, the City worked to expeditiously and lawfully implement the alternative district-based voting as called for in the stipulated judgement. Therefore, in essence, Michael Schlesinger’s lawsuit is challenging the actions the City is taking to lawfully comply with the stipulated judgement from 2018.   

“In doing so, this lawsuit actively seeks to chill the City’s First Amendment right to free speech, and baselessly challenges the lawful enactment of the very system the City was sued to enact in the first place,” City Attorney William Curley said. 

The City will continue to move forward with implementing district-based voting, which will create more appropriate representation for Mission Viejo residents, especially the Latino community.

Comments

Submitted by Cathy Schlicht on Thu, 05/12/2022 - 4:33 pm

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Section 4 of Resolution 20-54 dated 12/05/2020 and signed by then Mayor Brian Goodell reads:

SECTION 4. The City Council does declare and determine that: Patricia “Trish” Kelley was elected as Member of the City Council for the term of two years; and Brian Goodell was elected as Member of the City Council for the term of two years.

This, in part, is the Certificate of Election for a two year term from the ROV:

CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRAR OF VOTERS TO RESULT OF THE CANVASS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION RETURNS

I, Neal Kelley, Registrar of Voters of Orange County, do hereby certify the following to be a full, true and correct Statement of the Vote, consolidated with the Presidential General Election held on November 3, 2020.

CITY OF MISSION VIEJO MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL, TWO-YEAR TERM

PATRICIA “TRISH” KELLEY 25,865
BRIAN GOODELL 24,856
CATHY SCHLICHT 9,532
PAULINE HALE 8,420
JESSICA GILBERT 5,696
RYAN TWOREK 4,384
STEVE SIPE 4,340
MICHAEL MCCONNELL 3,914

So what we have here is a "FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE".

Submitted by Barbara Hosmer on Thu, 05/12/2022 - 5:39 pm

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excuse me, but i don't think his problem is with the district based voting system. it's with city council members who ran on a ballot that said they'd serve a 2 year term and then turned around an "converted" that to a 4 year term. and yes, we noticed! and i agree. and the other 3 shouldn't have gotten 2 more years than the ballot stated either! this is not a "choose your own adventure" script.

Submitted by Ann Owens on Thu, 05/12/2022 - 6:03 pm

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The city is incorrect in its interpretation of this lawsuit. It has nothing to do with districts. It is completely about the unlawful extension of council members’ terms. The applicant actually likes district voting. I hope the city attorney will not spread more misinformation about this case. It is totally about transparency and following the law and making sure constituents get to elect their council members in a timely manner.

Submitted by Cathy Palmer on Thu, 05/12/2022 - 9:03 pm

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This article about the lawsuit against the city regarding the implementation of District elections makes me very sad because it is so misleading. Mr. Schlesinger's lawsuit is specifically targeted at Section 2 paragraph D of the ordinance which extends Trish Kelley and Brian Goodell's terms of office from expiring in to 2022 to 2024, after they both ran for two-year terms in 2020. It is no wonder that residents don't believe what the City says about their inability or unwillingness to regulate problematic sober living facilities. The facts behind Mr. Schlesinger's lawsuit are easily available; the city is intentionally misleading residents by its characterization of the suit. Very sad.
The section which effectively extends the terms of the incumbents in Districts 2 and 4 can be found in the following document:
https://dms.cityofmissionviejo.org/OnBaseAgendaOnline/Documents/ViewDoc…

Submitted by Cathy Schlicht on Fri, 05/13/2022 - 10:39 am

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Resolution 18-52, dated 12/11/2018, signed by then Mayor Ed Sachs:

SECTION 4. The City Council does declare and determine that: Ed Sachs was elected as Member of the City Council for the term of two years; Wendy Bucknum was elected as Member of the City Council for the term of two years; and Greg Raths was elected as Member of the City Council for the term of two years.

Submitted by Mary Glackin on Fri, 05/13/2022 - 11:07 am

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No merit!?
If you believe in democracy and free and fair elections, then the city attorney is LYING to all of Mission Viejo! The council members were elected to 2 year terms, not 4. They extended their terms and have attempted to stay in office without the approval of the people by being on the ballot. SMAME ON YOU!

Submitted by michael schlesinger on Fri, 05/13/2022 - 11:33 am

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The City of Mission Viejo has put out a false and misleading, and quite possibly defamatory, statement about my lawsuits against the City. So let’s be clear:

My lawsuits seek to do only one thing: to vindicate the public’s right to vote. Ms. Kelley and Mr. Goodell were elected for two year terms by the voters of this City. The City Council has tried to unilaterally extend their terms without a vote of the public.

I seek to require the City Council to hold elections required by law.

I’ve always supported District elections. It is the City Council that has dithered, avoiding district elections for more than four years. My lawsuits do not make any changes to that law, other than ensuring that our council-members are elected by district immediately, as required by law.

Submitted by Cathy Schlicht on Mon, 05/16/2022 - 9:41 am

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The City’s press release is nothing more than a narrative and it’s not addressing the issue.

In order for the residents to come to their own conclusions or opinions, the City needs to provide a link to the legal documents.

It doesn’t appear to me that the City’s May 12th response is a vigorous defense.

Submitted by Cathy Schlicht on Mon, 05/16/2022 - 1:45 pm

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The City’s press release is nothing more than a self-serving narrative and it’s not addressing the issue.

In order for the residents to come to their own conclusions or opinions, the City needs to provide a link to the legal documents.

It doesn’t appear to me that the City’s May 12th response is a vigorous defense.

How long does it take for the City to post comments to this blog? I submitted a comment at 9:41am this morning.

Are delaying postings from members of the public a form of censorship?

Is the City living in a bubble? Is City Hall surprised that its residents are not supportive of the City Council's actions?

Submitted by Barbara Hosmer on Fri, 05/20/2022 - 8:50 pm

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hey kathi! i didn't think they'd post mine at all! it took days. but i am happy to see so many engaged! you can't take your eyes off of them for a minute. (sad face)

Submitted by Cathy Schlicht on Mon, 05/23/2022 - 2:55 pm

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Delaying posts on the City Blog is a form of censorship: suppression of free speech.

The City posts the time the comments were received but not the date and time the City posted the comments....

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