On May 19, 2022, Attorney General Rob Bonta authorized Michael Schlesinger, a retired veteran and resident of Mission Viejo, to file a Quo Warranto proceeding in Superior Court to remove Mission Viejo Mayor Wendy Bucknam 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. Mr. Schlesinger alleges that the City Council’s decision to unilaterally extend their terms of office, depriving the citizens of Mission Viejo of their right to vote for these three council seats in 2020, was unlawful.
In 2018, Bucknam, Sachs, and Raths were all elected to two-year terms of office pursuant to a Stipulated Judgment entered to resolve a voting rights lawsuit between the City and the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project. When the City did not hold cumulative elections in 2020, the City unilaterally extended their terms of office instead.
A Quo Warranto proceeding allows a citizen to challenge whether individuals rightfully occupy public office. The Attorney General’s opinion found that Mr. Schlesinger’s Quo Warranto application presents important questions of law and fact that should be decided by a Court. Mr. Schlesinger will soon commence a Quo Warranto proceeding in Superior Court seeking to remove these three individuals from office on an expedited basis—but will first ask that each resign from office in order to save Mission Viejo’s taxpayers the cost of defending a lawsuit brought against these three individuals, given that the City purportedly authorized the City Attorney to represent them at taxpayer expense.
Because the City previously chose to make only select portions of Mr. Schlesinger’s flings available to the public, a complete copy of the Quo Warranto Application, Statement of Facts, and Proposed Complaint (with cited evidence) are available here:
The Attorney General’s Opinion granting Mr. Schlesinger permission to proceed with a Quo Warranto lawsuit is available here:
This Quo Warranto proceeding is related to a separate lawsuit filed by Mr. Schlesinger in April 2022 against the City of Mission Viejo asking that a Court require that the City place the other two council seats (those currently held by Patricia “Trish” Kelley and Brian Goodell) up for election in November 2022. These council members were elected to two-years terms of office in 2020, and therefore their terms will expire in December 2022. Nonetheless, under a recently adopted ordinance to transition the City to district-based voting beginning with the November 2022 elections, the City indicated that it would not place the two districts (Districts 2 and 4) corresponding to their seats up for election until 2024. In other words, the City effectively seeks to grant Ms. Kelley and Mr. Goodell two-year extensions to their terms of office by failing to call an election to fill their expiring seats.
The City has used its public relations machine to attack Mr. Schlesinger and the legal actions brought to require the city to allow the people of Mission Viejo to elect their representatives. The City has gone so far as to assert that Mr. Schlesinger’s lawsuit that seeks to enforce the voting rights of 40% of the City’s population infringes on the City’s first amendment rights.
A copy of Mr. Schlesinger’s lawsuit against the City is available here:
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)