County responds to recall writ request
Sept. 18, 2012 — A Lassen County Superior Court Judge will decide if the campaign to recall Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson can move forward.
Lassen County Counsel Rhetta Vander Ploeg filed a response Friday, Sept. 7 to a request for a writ of mandate filed by recall proponent Tom Hammond.
Hammond, who announced earlier this year he would seek Hanson’s seat should the recall decision be placed before the voters, filed a request for a writ of mandate Aug. 10. A writ of mandate is a court order to a government agency to follow the law by correcting its prior actions or ceasing illegal acts.
On May 10 Lassen County Clerk Julie Bustamante rejected about 70 recall petition sheets because the signatures were on a form the clerk had previously rejected due to a typographical error.
According to the county’s response, “the county clerk had an absolute duty to reject … sections that were copied from a rejected draft petition.”
Hammond alleges Bustamante approved the petition forms with a minor error that would not affect “substantial compliance with the law … This rejection for a de minimus error not affecting the content of the petition disenfranchises the electors of District 5, thus violates fundamental constitutional rights and is contrary to statute and case law.”
But the county alleges, “the petitioner fails to acknowledge that he used sections the clerk rejected March 5, 2012 because the printed name of one of the proponents on the form was incorrect … the 70 sections were not rejected because of a minor typographical error identified at the time the petition was turned into the clerk’s office, they were rejected because they came from a rejected draft petition.”
In fact, the county’s filing puts the responsibility for the rejected petition squarely on Hammond.
“There can be no question that petitioner was unsure or inexperienced in how to proceed,” Vander Ploeg wrote. “There can be no question the clerk’s office provided ample assistance, time and direction throughout the process. How this can be turned into a ‘clear abuse of discretion by an administrative official’ is beyond reason.”
The county’s response also questions the reasoning behind Hammond’s filing.
“The petitioner’s logic fails because it is premised on the flawed claim the rejected sections were pre-approved. Not true. The claim is not supported by any evidence, just allegations by a disappointed petitioner.”
In addition, the county alleges there is no proof of violations of the election code or the constitution contained in Hammond’s filing, and alleges that filing cited “immaterial case law.”
According to the county’s response, “That matter before the court is simple. The valid recall petition does not contain enough signatures to move forward with the recall effort … Unfortunate for those who place their confidence in the recall effort, it failed, but solely because of the petitioner’s own errors. Just as unfortunate, the petitioner wants to place the blame of the circulated, invalid, rejected, petition on the clerk, the very person who went out of her way to help. The voters desiring to ‘express their dissatisfaction’ need only look to the petitioner’s actions and not lay blame on the clerk … The clerk’s decision, unanimously supported by experienced and respected officials from other California counties, along with legal counsel for the secretary of state, should be validated by the court by denying the petitioner’s writ of mandate.”
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