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2 seats, but where to sit?

Due to potential conflicts of interest, Foley may not be able to serve both the council and school board.

November 03, 2010|By Mona Shadia and Tom Ragan, mona.shadia@latimes.com
  • Katrina Foley
Katrina Foley (hand-in, unknown )

COSTA MESA — The election of Councilwoman Katrina Foley to the Newport-Mesa school board raises an obvious question: Will she stay on the council and finish out the remaining two years of her council term?

Not so obvious is the answer. Foley hasn't decided whether she'll fill one or both seats. And if it's just one seat, she's not saying publicly which one she'd pick.

"The legal issues require analysis, and I am just trying to recuperate from the election, and I'll look through the legal opinions and do what's right for the community," said Foley, an attorney who has spent years volunteering in Newport-Mesa schools.

Foley and others are looking into the legal aspects of serving on the two boards before she makes the call.

"It has come to my attention that there are some legal issues regarding serving in both seats," Foley said in a text message to the Pilot. "Those issues need to be worked out and are in process. In the meantime, I'm truly grateful to all the volunteers who spend thousands of hours campaigning. On to the next challenge."

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City Atty. Kimberly Hall Barlow said it's still not clear whether an individual may hold a council and school board seat at the same time.

"It's not a question in Costa Mesa's code; it's a question of whether the offices are incompatible under state law," she said.

Barlow said Foley is seeking counsel from the state attorney general's office.

There aren't many known examples. Although Gary Monahan sits on both the City Council and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District board, Barlow said, the sanitary district allows council members on the board.

Mark Petracca, chairman of the political science department at UC Irvine, said there is no uniform rule for all cities. It's a matter of municipal law, which varies among municipalities.

"It would certainly be unusual," he said.

Foley's decision would likely have the greatest impact on the balance of power on the City Council. Though the offices are non-partisan, she is the lone Democrat among Republicans and often challenges Mayor Allan Mansoor, a conservative headed for state Assembly.

Councilman-elect Jim Righeimer is expected to bring a strong conservative voice to the council and Foley has been urged to stay on, several sources have said, to provide a counterpoint.

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