Friday, December 26, 2014

Judge rules sales tax lawsuit invalid

From page A1 | March 28, 2014 |

Yolo Superior Court David Reed issued a final ruling Thursday morning that throws a lawsuit against the city’s proposed sales tax out of court.

Reed said that the men who sued over the ballot language for Davis’ Measure O sued the wrong parties. Reed ruled the target should not have been Davis City Clerk Zoe Mirabile, but should have included Yolo County Clerk Recorder Freddie Oakley, the members of the Davis City Council and the city attorney, according to both parties in the lawsuit.

Local residents Jose Granda and Thomas Randall sued the city on March 17 alleging both that the city’s ballot language should say “half-percent” instead of “half-cent” because the two terms do not mean the same exact thing, and that the city’s original ballot statement was misleading. The city clarified the statement earlier this month.

“These are two completely different things,” the lawsuit reads. “It conveys (to) the voter that no matter what you buy, even a $30,000 car purchase or a $30 shirt currently you pay only one ‘half-cent,’ while the reality is that a $30,000 car purchase (you) will pay one half of one percent (0.5 percent) or $150 and for the shirt you will pay $0.15.”

The city’s current ballot language reads:

“Shall Ordinance No. 2432, which would authorize the city of Davis to reauthorize and extend the existing half-cent sales and use tax for general government purposes and increase the sales and use tax by an additional half cent, for a combined one-cent tax, through Dec. 31, 2020, be adopted?”

The merits of the lawsuit were not addressed by Reed, City Attorney Harriet Steiner said, because the court said the targets of the lawsuit were the wrong targets.

Granda said he had sued the right parties because “local elections is with Ms. Mirabile, not Ms. Oakley.” He said he would talk to his advising attorneys to see if he could appeal the ruling. He said the judge used “rogue judicial power” in tossing the lawsuit out. Granda also said he had a court reporter record the events of the short hearing in preparation for an appeal.

An appeal of Reed’s ruling would have to center on whether Granda sued the right parties, not the basis of his argument against the sales tax measure’s ballot language.

Steiner said Granda would not be able to contest the language of Measure O again if he did sue the parties the judge required, because election deadlines had already passed.

Steiner also said there are more than 100 recent examples of other government entities, including the state, using “cent” instead of “percent” to explain tax measures to voters.

Granda said a ruling in a state supreme court case, Rutledge v. Crawford, was in his favor because it said the ballot is the only expression of the voter’s will.

— Reach Dave Ryan at 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews



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