Update as of July 13, 2022. The City of Mission Viejo finally conceded that it must give all citizens in all newly created city council districts the right to vote this November.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CITY OF MISSION VIEJO TO HOLD ELECTIONS FOR ALL FIVE CITY COUNCIL SEATS
MISSION VIEJO – On July 12th, the Mission Viejo City Council finally agreed to call an election this November for all five city council seats (corresponding to all of the newly created city council districts) after a Court order compelling the City forced the City to concede that elections were required to allow ALL citizens in Mission Viejo the right to vote this November. The City’s decision to call an election for the seats currently held by members Brian Goodell and Trish Kelley, in addition to the three other City Council seats, is a resounding victory for the people of Mission Viejo, and for Michael Schlesinger — a retired veteran and resident of the City — who filed a lawsuit in order achieve this important result for Mission Viejo’s residents.
In March 2022, the City adopted by-district elections for the City Council, but determined that only three seats would be up for election. Although Mr. Goodell and Ms. Kelley had been elected to two-year terms in November 2020, the City decided, on its own initiative without voter approval to extend their terms by refusing to call an election for their expired seats. Michael Schlesinger challenged this decision in Orange County Superior Court, and on June 28, Judge Walter Schwarm issued a preliminary injunction requiring all 5 City Council seats be up for election in November, 2022, specifically noting that the seats held by Goodell and Kelley must be placed on the ballot. [Attached] While the City’s draft resolution attempted to portray uncertainty around the November elections, the City Council—faced with mounting outcry from the public and a clear court order—voted to place all five seats up for election.
The Court previously rejected the City’s attempt to strike Mr. Schlesinger’s lawsuit under the guise of the state’s anti-SLAPP statute, and ordered that Mr. Schlesinger may seek his attorneys’ fees for having to respond to the City’s failed attempt to strike the case.
After the City council’s decision on Tuesday, Mr. Schlesinger remarked, “I was in shock when the City Council extended the terms of Mr. Goodell and Ms. Kelley for two years without voter approval. I thought actions like this in taking away voting rights only occurred in dictatorships. It took Judge Schwarm’s court order and public outcry to force the City to grant me and my fellow citizens the right to vote and I am very thankful. As we have learned recently, democracy is a very fragile thing and you constantly have to fight to preserve it.”
This case is one of two related cases now pending before the Superior Court to ensure the rights of the citizens of Mission Viejo to actually elect their city council members when their terms expire.
The first case, Schlesinger v. City of Mission Viejo, seeks a Writ of Mandate requiring the City to place Districts 2 and 4 up for election in November, 2022 as the two-year elected terms of council members Brian Goodell and Trish Kelley–whose seats correspond to those Districts–will expire in in December 2022. As noted above, the Court issued a preliminary injunction requiring that the City hold these elections.
The second case, a Quo Warranto action entitled, People of the State of California ex rel. Schlesinger v. Sachs, Bucknum, and Raths, OCSC Case No. 30-2022-01262431-CU-JR-CJC seeks a declaration that Mayor Wendy Bucknum and Councilmembers Ed Sachs and Greg Raths do not properly hold office because they were elected to two-year terms of office in 2018, and were never re-elected when their terms of office expired in December 2020.
After receiving authorization from the Attorney General of the State of California on May 19, 2022 to file a Quo Warranto action on behalf of the People of California, Mission Viejo resident Michael Schlesinger filed a Complaint in Superior Court in Orange County on May 26, 2022 to remove Mission Viejo Mayor Wendy Bucknum and Council members Ed Sachs and Greg Raths from office on the grounds that they were not re-elected when their elected terms of office expired in December 2020. All three Defendants have been served with a Summons and Complaint. Relator, Michael Schlesinger, on behalf of the People of the State of California, will be seeking a final judicial resolution of this matter soon.
For more information, contact:
Aaron R. Hand (Bunsow De Mory LLP [email protected], (949) 258-9237); or
Lee Fink (Brower Law Group, APC, [email protected], (949) 328-1548); or
Brett Murdock (Law Offices of Brett Murdock, [email protected], (714) 582-2217)