Mayor Frank Quintero

Glendale mayor Frank Quintero gives the State of the city address at the Glendale Chamber of Commerce 2013 State of the city and awards luncheon at the Glendale Hilton on Thursday, March 28, 2013. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / March 28, 2013)

Councilman Frank Quintero shouldn't be kicked out of office because of an ambiguous city law, according to a ruling from the state attorney general's office.

The ruling blocks two Glendale residents from filing a lawsuit against Quintero in order to boot him off the City Council. 

Quintero has defended his ability be a city leader after he retired in April and then was appointed to a 14-month term to fill a seat left vacant by another council member. He characterized his combative relationship with the National Rifle Assn. as the true driver behind the lawsuit.

Quintero butted heads with the pro-gun group after he voted to ban gun sales from the Glendale Civic Auditorium in March when he was mayor.

“I'm glad the NRA-influenced lawsuit has failed,” Quintero said, adding that he reluctantly agreed to return to the council after deciding not to seek reelection earlier this year. The other council members asked him to fill a seat vacated by former Councilman Rafi Manoukian, who left office early when he was elected City Treasurer.

The attorney who spoke on behalf of the National Rifle Assn. during the gun ban proceedings also represented the men who filed the joint lawsuit request. But he has repeatedly said the two are not connected. Mariano Rodas and John Rando were the two local residents who filed the request.

Their attorney, Sean Brady, said he believes the attorney general's opinion was wrong and was based on politics. 

“My clients intend to ask a court to compel a reversal of [the] decision and allow them to proceed with removing Mr. Quintero from the seat we believe he unlawfully holds,” Brady said in an email.

In order to file a lawsuit to oust a public official from an elected office he or she shouldn't hold, potential litigants must first apply for permission from the attorney general in a process known as a “quo warranto” action.

In this case, Brady argued that Quintero shouldn't hold office because a city provision prevents a council member from holding a compensated city office for two years after the end of the member's term.

While the provision can be read on its face as a term limit, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Deputy Attorney General Marc Nolan said in their Oct. 25 opinion that the provision can be read many ways, and interpreting it as Brady has would not be in the public interest.

The opinion was based on a variety of factors, including the ballot information for the 1982 change to the city charter that created the ambiguous provision, 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.

“All indications are that the provisions was aimed at prohibiting … a council member from improperly using his or her influence to gain non-elective city employment,” their opinion states.

Originally, the charter rule could be interpreted to mean that part-time council members shouldn't hold any outside jobs. However, in 1982, voters approved changing the provision to limit it to city office and extended it to include their term plus a two-year buffer period. However, lawmakers didn't explicitly exclude elective office when codifying the provision.

Although the attorney general's office said the law was not clearly written, officials still ruled that the provision should not bar Quintero from holding office. The opinion also notes that since Quintero's appointed term is set to end in June, likely before judicial proceedings could conclude, it's in the public interest to not let the lawsuit move forward. 

When his temporary term ends in June, Quintero said he will not run again. Whoever does run and wins will get to sit on the dais for 10 months before they must run again in April 2015 for a full four-year term.

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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