This week a Los Angeles Superior Court judge supported California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ decision to block residents John Rando and Mariano Rodas from challenging Quintero’s April appointment in court.
The duo claimed that Harris overstepped her boundaries when she wouldn’t greenlight their so-called “quo warranto” request to file a lawsuit against Quintero, whom they believe was wrongly appointed to office due to an ambiguous city provision that they interpret as a term limit.
But Judge James Chalfant said in his tentative ruling released on Jan. 7, which he noted in court that day would become his final ruling, that the “Attorney General did not exceed or abuse her discretion.”
Back in April, city officials played a game of musical chairs: former Councilman Rafi Manoukian left his seat to become the City Treasurer. Although Quintero’s term on council was over and he planned to retire, his colleagues decided to appoint him to a 14-month term to fill Manoukian’s empty seat.
Rodas and Rando didn’t like that appointment. According to court documents filed by their lawyer, Sean Brady, a 1982 city provision that prevents council members from holding “any compensated city office or employment until two years after leaving office as council member” would block Quintero from being appointed.
Harris, however, disagreed, 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, affirming what city officials had been claiming all along.
She said her 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.
In response, Brady filed a request with Los Angeles Superior Court in November to overturn that decision because he claimed Harris abused her discretion in denying their application since there was still ambiguity over what the charter provision meant — whether it was a term limit or a revolving-door policy. In her opinion, Harris also called the provision ambiguous.
But Chalfant said although the provision’s language is vague, its not a “substantial issue of fact or law” that the courts should decide.
“The mere existence of a debatable issue is not enough to require judicial resolution through quo warranto,” he ruled.
Rando and Rodas could still appeal the decision if they want to continue their fight, but the city will also continue to defend Quintero, said City Atty, Mike Garcia.
“We think [their claim] is pretty meritless,” Garcia said.
Brady did not respond to a request for comment.
City officials have said the fight against Quintero was propelled by Rando, Rodas and Brady’s stance against a ban on gun sales on city property strongly supported by Quintero last year. Rando and Rodas spoke out against the ban and Brady represented the National Rifle Assn. at the time. But Brady has said the two issues are not linked.
Garcia said his team may try to revise the provision in the future if the city takes up a general charter clean-up process, but he doesn’t consider such an effort urgent since there are now two legal authorities supporting the city’s interpretation of the rule.
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