The duo, John Rando and Mariano Rodas, failed in October to get California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris to let them challenge Councilman Frank Quintero’s April appointment in court — a necessary green light to legally contest one’s right to hold office.
But now they’ve asked a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to force Harris to let them try to oust Quintero from office via the court system.
Judge James Chalfant is scheduled to review opposition arguments from the city of Glendale, which is legally representing Quintero, and the attorney general’s office on Tuesday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
This all started when Quintero was appointed to replace a seat left vacant by Councilman Rafi Manoukian when Manoukian was elected city treasurer in April. Although Quintero had retired that month from 12 years on council, his colleagues asked him to return until a special election slated for 14 months later. Quintero obliged.
That appointment didn’t bode well with Rando or Rodas, who then filed a request with the attorney general’s office in May to allow them to file a lawsuit to unseat Quintero, an action known as “quo warranto.”
They contended the appointment violated a 1982 provision that prevents council members from holding “any compensated city office or employment until two years after leaving office as council member.”
But Harris denied the request five months later, noting that while the provision can be read on its face as a term limit, it was actually aimed at prohibiting a council member from improperly using his or her influence to gain nonelective office.
The opinion was based on a variety of factors, including ballot information for the 1982 change to the city charter that created the provision in question, the absence of term limits, in general, from the city's books, and an individual's fundamental right as a California citizen to hold public office.
City officials have claimed that when voters approved the revolving-door policy, it was never meant to prevent people from holding elected office. Rather, it was meant to clarify a former policy that seemingly prevented council members from holding outside employment.
But Sean Brady, the attorney for the Glendale residents, filed an application in November to overturn the attorney general’s ruling in Los Angeles County Superior Court, stating that Harris abused her discretion in denying the request since there was a question of law — the meaning of the charter provision — that should be settled in court.
“The attorney general’s role in deciding quo warranto applications is supposed to be that of a gatekeeper for frivolous lawsuits, not judge and jury for legitimate and importation questions of law like the one presented by petitioners,” Brady wrote in court documents.
But Harris’ attorney, Susan Smith, called Brady’s request “meritless on its face” in court documents because Harris acted within her purview since the attorney general has broad discretion in this type of situation.
Deputy City Atty. Andrew Rawcliffe expressed similar sentiments, according to court records, noting that the attorney general did not act outside of her discretion. Instead, she resolved the ambiguity of the revolving-door provision through her opinion, which was made in the public interest.
Rawcliffe stated in court documents that letting the city’s opponent move forward would not be in the public interest because Quintero would likely be out of office before the legal case is resolved and it would discourage people from publicly sharing their beliefs.
Quintero and Glendale officials have long pointed to Quintero’s support of a gun show ban passed in 2013 by the council as the true impetus for the desired ousting, although the opponents deny that.
Both Rando and Rodas opposed the ban and Brady represented the National Rifle Assn. at the council meetings discussing the prohibition.
“It is clear that this quo warranto action would discourage citizens from holding elected office and/or, at the very least, discourage elected officials from taking positions unpopular with the National Rifle Assn.,” Rawcliffe wrote in court documents filed on Dec. 20.
Neither city officials nor Brady were available for comment this week.
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