Appeals Court Updates Favorable Term Limits Ruling

As we previously wrote back in October, the Court of Appeal issued an opinion in our favor, ruling that Oxnard City Council’s actions relating to our term limits initiative, “served to deny voters their rights guaranteed by the Election Code.”

The ruling notes that:

  • The Oxnard City Council, “rendered [our term limits measure] a nullity, depriving the voters of the opportunity to decide the issue of term limits.”

  • “The City deprived Starr and the citizens who signed his initiative of the remedy they sought and to which they were entitled.”

  • “The City overlooks that the plain language” of the relevant statute makes their action illegal.

The court of appeals had originally crafted a well-intentioned proposed remedy that would have put stricter term limits on the ballot, but in a way that both we and the City recognized could have some unintended side effects. 

Both sides asked the court for a rehearing, not on the merits of the case, but only on what the city should be ordered to do as a remedy.

On Tuesday the court issued an updated ruling with the simple remedy that we originally sought, “the City will place the initiative on the November 8, 2022, ballot without alteration.”

Oxnard City Council took away your right to cast an informed vote on whether you would prefer our strict two-term limits for city council members ... or the three-terms-with-an-evasion-loophole version that city management crafted and wrote into Measure B.

You should have had this choice two years earlier, in November 2020, but late is better than never.

The city’s actions left us no option besides a two-year-long lawsuit to get our measure on the ballot. 

The illegal delay personally benefited some of the city council members (those re-elected in 2020) by extending the number of terms they could potentially serve in office.

It takes residents months of hard petitioning work to qualify a ballot measure. We had to file the text of our term limits proposal with the city clerk back in spring of 2019 before we could even start collecting signatures for it. 

That means Oxnard City Hall saw exactly what we were proposing. 

Once they saw our proposal, they started scheming to undermine it before we finished collecting signatures by drafting Measure B to replace our strict term limits with their looser-with-a-loophole limits.

Rather than gather signatures from voters to qualify their measure, the city council simply voted to place Measure B on the March 2020 ballot ...

... and then sneakily “ADOPTED” our strict-term-limits measure just a few weeks before voting was scheduled to take place on their measure so that voters would unwittingly REPLACE our strict term limits with their looser term limits.

Measure B was a giant piece of voter deception, and for more reasons than City Hall’s use of it to thwart our strict two-term limits measure. As we noted before, City Hall lied to the voters over and over about their Measure B.

  • The ballot materials lied to the voters about Measure B’s term limits provision, saying that it would enact term limits rather than loosen them.

  • City Hall pretended that Measure B would strengthen campaign finance reporting requirements, but in reality there were NO NEW CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS in Measure B. It merely duplicated the ALREADY-EXISTING state law requirements for campaign finance reporting.

  • The City Manager claimed that Measure B would “expand transparency by posting the City’s monthly financial reporting and City contracts on the City website.” Oxnard was ALREADY required by state law to produce monthly financial statements –– with or without Measure B –– and Oxnard has for years refused to follow that law.

  • Measure B offered that all “agreements requiring City Council approval” must be posted on the website “prior to city council action.” Of course, the city manager is authorized to spend up to $200,000 on his own without council approval, so this only covers their largest contracts and these agreements were already required to be posted with the city council agendas under already-existing law.

Why would Oxnard City Hall put a measure on the ballot with so much redundant law?

It was bait for voters who just didn’t realize those requirements were already built into state law, enticing them to vote yes and help the council execute the plot to get their looser term limits instead of our proposed stricter ones.

Oxnard’s city leadership truly is shameless ... and they clearly demonstrate contempt for voters. 

Council meeting video demonstrates that the council’s two direct employees (city manager and city attorney) knew in advance that their scheme for our measure was illegal, but they sat there and advised the council in open session to do it anyway. 

And some council members laughed as they voted to violate your rights.

What they didn't seem to appreciate is our willingness to go to court to make them follow the law.

As a bonus, the Court of Appeal decided to “publish” this ruling which means it sets binding precedent that can be cited by other attorneys in other cases should some other naughty city council decide to stick it to their voters the way that the Oxnard City Council did.

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