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City clerk sues Measure A opposition authors

Court will decide April 3
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn City Clerk Joseph Labrie filed a lawsuit against the authors of the ballot argument against Measure A, the initiative that will go on the June ballot proposing Auburn become a charter city. In his lawsuit, the city clerk claims that statements made in the argument were false and misleading. According to election law, a registered voter or the city clerk can file a lawsuit within ten days of receiving the written arguments if they believe any false information is contained in them. City Council is scheduled to discuss the matter in closed session Monday night. The lawsuit lists James Earp, Hank Gonzales and the California Alliance for Jobs as the authors of the ballot argument against Measure A and asks for the judge to decide to make amendments to several areas of their ballot argument and rebuttal. Preserve Auburn - No on Measure A, funded by the California Alliance for Jobs says there are no false or misleading statements in the ballot argument and the lawsuit alone proves that a charter city will open the door for more litigation against the city. Since the ballot arguments for and against the initiative will be in the ballot books going out to voters in early April, the case will be expedited. A decision will be made by the Placer County Superior Court on April 3, according to Michael Colantuono, Auburn City Attorney. Colantuono said the city is contending several areas in the ballot argument are contradicted by the text of the proposed charter, including claims that the charter will allow city officials to pay themselves thousands of dollars, that the charter will open the door to new taxes and financial ruin and that the charter will open the door to political corruption. Because the documents sent to voters are being paid for by taxpayers, he said it is critical the information within them be factual. “On the speech they pay for they can say whatever they want, but the speech the taxpayers are paying for have to be within the limits of the law,” Colantuono said. According to court documents filed by the city, the lawsuit also contends the authors of the argument against Measure A wrote misleading information about state law exempting volunteers from prevailing wage because that law expires in 2017 and does not protect the city’s volunteers permanently. Another statement the city says should be corrected is one regarding a charter city status enabling the council to give out public funds arbitrarily Todd Stenhouse, spokesperson for Preserve Auburn - No on Measure A, which is funded by the California Alliance for Jobs, said the information written by the authors in the ballot argument against Measure A is correct. “We believe it is correct,” Stenhouse said. “This is really a self-fulfilling prophecy. The City Attorney has said that charter cities invite litigation and now there is a lawsuit.” Colantuono said lawsuits like this don’t usually happen in Auburn, but are sometimes necessary. “These kinds of disputes about ballot materials are not that uncommon,” Colantuono said. “It is unusual for Auburn, but this is part of the game as it’s played in Sacramento and the city clerk’s only interest is in making sure the voters get good information.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.