Claremont will fight Measure A in court

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Inland Valley Times

Rather than wait to see what other cities will do, the City Council will challenge a popular ballot measure aimed at restricting the impact political donations have on city affairs.

After several members of city commissions vowed to resign if Measure A is enforced, the council late Tuesday voted unanimously to challenge the law in court.

Calling the measure misguided, vague and unconstitutional, council members ignored the city attorney’s recommendation to take a more cautious stance.

“The problem is that people have been saying they want to participate in the process but this prevents people from participating in the process,” Mayor Paul Held said.

While the City Council didn’t take an official position during the election, council members repeatedly said the measure would keep people from volunteering for city service.

“We feel a significant number of citizens will be scared to serve in the city if the measure were implemented,” said Patrick Stout, chairman of the city’s architectural commission.

The council directed City Atty. Sonia Carvalho to challenge the new law and seek an injunction against it.

The law, which is scheduled to take effect Friday, restricts city officials from taking campaign contributions from people or organizations that have benefited from their votes or actions. It also prohibits officials from taking a job with such beneficiaries for one year after leaving office.

This latter provision drew the most criticism from city commissioners during Tuesday’s lengthy debate.

“I find this rather draconian,” said Michael Shea, an architect on the Architectural Commission, who said he would have to resign if the measure was implemented.

Shea said he couldn’t be sure who his future clients would be and every vote might jeopardize future business.

Proponents of the law disagree.

“Essentially they are trying to spread fear among the community that City Hall is going to collapse … or shut down because nobody is going to volunteer,” said Paul Herzog, an organizer for the Santa Monica-based sponsor of the measure.

He said the measure only applies to a small number of people in City Hall who have the power to grant substantial benefits: council members, the city manager, the assistant city manager and planning commissioners.

When faced with a vote or decision which would benefit a political supporter or a possible future employer an official has the option of not voting, Herzog said.

Carvalho said challenging the measure’s constitutionality will cost the city an estimated $10,000, although several people at Tuesday’s council meeting said it would cost far more.

Claremont will have to hire an outside lawyer, Carvalho said, because as city attorney, she is obligated to defend laws on the city’s books, which by the weekend will include Measure A.

She said Claremont would probably have the help of Pasadena and Santa Monica where voters approved the same measure. Officials in those cities have said they want to challenge the law as well.

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