It’s an Election Season Filing – Sacramento Superior Court Asked Now to Intervene in ‘Constitutional Issue’
By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – The election season is upon us – Sacramento Superior Court here now is being asked not to house a jury in some criminal trial or decide how much to award in damages in a civil matter, but to decide if election officials in nearby Citrus Heights are shortchanging a candidate, and voters..
Because that’s exactly what Porsche Middleton is claiming in her filing with court, which must rule soon – most ballots go to print later this week.
She maintains that voters are being misled because elections officials are “unconstitutionally” violating state elections code by refusing to let her identify herself as a “Citrus Heights planning commissioner on the November 2018 General Election ballot.
It’s one thing for Middleton, the only Democrat running in the field and a relative newcomer in politics, to be in a difficult race. But now, she claims, city elections official Amy Van is handicapping her by not allowing her to accurately identify who she is…a “City of Citrus Heights Planning Commissioner.”
In a petition for a writ of mandate, Middleton’s lawyer goes to detailed lengths to explain the wrong, including that Citrus Heights did allow the “city planning commissioner” ballot description to be used in 2006, when Citrus Heights City Council candidate Laura Taylor used it.
Further, Ms. Middleton’s lawyers argued in a letter to the City of Citrus Heights: “Ms. Middleton’s proposed ballot designation is acceptable. She is a current member of the Planning Commission and, critically, is paid for her service… the significant amount of time Ms. Middleton dedicates to her official duties, including preparing for and attending meetings and conducting official business, qualifies it as ‘principal.’”
Despite that, the City of Citrus Height is sticking to its guns, or story, in its reply to Ms. Middleton.
“(T)he City Clerk concluded that ‘Planning Commissioner’ is not a principal profession, vocation, or occupation within the meaning of the law. A profession is defined as ‘a field of employment requiring special education or skill and requiring knowledge of a particular discipline.’
“A vocation is defined as ‘a trade, a religious calling, or the work upon which a person, in most but not all cases, relies for his or her livelihood and spends a major portion of his or her time.’ An occupation is defined as ‘the employment in which one regularly engages or follows as the means of making a livelihood. The fact that planning commissioners are provided a modest stipend for attending a meeting does not place the designation within those definitions.”
“We, of course, attempted to resolve this issue administratively with the City, but were refused. We haven’t seen any persuasive justification for the City’s denial, especially since the City has allowed identical ballot designations in the past,” said Brian T. Hildreth of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP that filed the motion, in a press statement.
The complaint alleges that city election officials have repeatedly refused to allow Ms. Middleton to use that designation, despite mandates from the Secretary of State Office and the state elections code that would allow the designation
The complaint further notes that the City of Citrus Heights “refused to correct her error…Without this Court’s intervention, election materials will be caused to be printed that do not contain Petitioner’s most accurate principal profession, vocation, or occupation, depriving Petitioner of her right under statute as well as under the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
“Voters of the City of Citrus Heights will thereby be deprived both of their right to receive accurate election materials provided by the state and by their right to identify (Ms. Middleton) by the designation by which she is known in the community,” according to the Superior Court filing.
The City’s argument notably argues that Ms. Middleton’s planning commissioner job, which only pays a small stipend, is not a job and not a profession requiring trainng or expertise.
However, Ms. Middleton notes in the filing quite the opposite.
“Indeed, the city’s own website argues that ‘planning commissioner’ requires ‘special education or skill and requiring knowledge of a particular discipline’ (and) the Planning Commission webpage of the City of Citrus Heights confirm(s) that ‘Planning commissioners are selected by the City Council for their interest, experience, and expertise.’”