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Judge: Residents can participate in charter lawsuit

He also tentatively rules to stop Costa Mesa City Clerk Julie Folcik's case against the registrar but will make a formal decision Tuesday.

March 26, 2012|By Britney Barnes

SANTA ANA — An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that four Costa Mesa residents can have their say in litigation over whether their city's proposed charter should be allowed on the June ballot despite being filed late.

Judge Franz Miller decided lawyers John B. Stephens and Katrina Foley, and an attorney representing Mary Spadoni and William "Billy" Folsom, can intervene in Costa Mesa's lawsuit against the Orange County Registrar of Voters. Miller had tentatively ruled against permitting the intervention, but later changed his mind after hearing arguments from Stephens and Foley.

But concerning the lawsuit itself, Miller tentatively ruled against it, according to the court website. He will be hearing arguments at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, however, before making his final decision.

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"In any event [Costa Mesa] has shown no [irreparable] harm if election is delayed until November," Miller said in his tentative ruling, according to the court's website.

Opponents believe that the charter should go on the November ballot instead of June's, to give residents more time for review and debate.

Costa Mesa's lawsuit, filed by City Clerk Julie Folcik, asks the court to order Registrar Neal Kelley to allow the proposed city charter measure to go in the June election, despite an unintentional clerical filing delay. The deadline was March 9, but the paperwork was filed the next business day, March 12. Folcik had reportedly misinterpreted the county's directives to meet the deadline.

Kelley supports putting the initiative on the June ballot.

The intervention application was filed "to prevent the City Council majority from illegally rushing the proposed charter issue to the polls, thereby depriving all Costa Mesa citizens of the opportunity to consider, debate and analyze the proposed charter issue before casting their votes," according to court documents Stephens and Foley submitted.

Kelley will not take a position on the issue, according to court documents.

Foley, a Newport-Mesa Unified school trustee who once served on the council, said in a phone interview that she and Stephens are seeking judgment on whether it is legal for Folcik, who isn't a Costa Mesa resident, to even bring the petition forward when there wasn't a council vote to litigate the issue.

"Julie Folcik is an employee of the city. She does not have the right ... to bring a lawsuit on her own behalf," Foley said.

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