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Rehearing process could be removed

Costa Mesa council is preparing to strike it from the municipal code, despite arguments that it gives residents a chance to argue a decision without going to court.

November 15, 2013|By Bradley Zint

The Costa Mesa City Council's procedure for rehearing decisions is poised to be struck off the books, pending a second council vote on the matter next month.

On Nov. 5 the council voted 3 to 1 — with Councilwoman Sandy Genis dissenting and Councilwoman Wendy Leece absent — in favor of an ordinance that would take the rehearing procedure out of the municipal code. Mayor Jim Righeimer requested that the matter be brought before the group.

The rehearing process, which supplements the city's appeal procedures, permits the re-examination of council decisions if new, relevant information surfaces after the original decision was made.

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Righeimer contended that appeals should be taken to a higher body, not the same one that made the original judgment. Thus, if someone doesn't like a council decision, he or she can take it to the courts.

"I've yet to find a city — there may be one or two — that has a rehearing like we do," he said, adding that he felt it is often used as a "delay" tactic.

Genis countered that other Southern California cities have such a policy and that it's "by no means unique to Costa Mesa."

"I do think there is room for rehearings when there is new, relevant information," she said.

Harold Weitzberg, a former council candidate, urged the city not to rid itself of the rehearing process, which he contended helps give a council minority vote more power.

Former Councilman Jay Humphrey also urged keeping the policy.

"Here we have an opportunity to allow our citizens to have a last-said step before they become embroiled in a legal battle," he said, adding that courts and ballot referendums can take too much time and effort.

Councilman Gary Monahan said the public had good arguments for maintaining the policy, but they weren't enough to sway him.

"The problem is, no matter how many times the mayor explains it … they don't want to hear the fact that they can only speak to what the new information is," Monahan said. "They want to rehear that project. They would give you the three minutes on why they either like it or don't like it."

The council is not changing its reconsideration policy, Monahan noted. That rule allows a council member who voted on the prevailing side to reconsider an action during the meeting at which it occurred or at a recessed or adjourned session.

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