A lawsuit has been filed against the City of Arcadia by District 3 resident, Diana Chang, requesting that Mayor Sho Tay be allowed to run for a third term:
In the court filing “A Resident and voter of Arcadia’s Third City Council District who wants to vote for Arcadia City Councilmember Sho Tay (“Councilmember Tay”) in the November 8, 2022 election, is being denied her right to do so based on the City of Arcadia’s (the “City”) incorrect interpretation of Arcadia’s “term limit” law (Arcadia City Charter section 401).
The City of Arcadia Charter limits City Councilmembers to two consecutive terms.
In the coming election, the following Councilmembers were to be termed out: Tom Beck (D2), Sho Tay (D3), Roger Chandler (deceased) (D5) and April A. Verlato, (D1).
Mayor Tay has stated the rule does not apply to him since he was “appointed” to the Council in 2018, when in reality he ran unopposed for District 3 and fulfilled a full term on the City Council as a result. This makes him ineligible to be on the November 2022 ballot for District 3.
The Election Code Section 10299 states: The person appointed, if any, shall qualify and take office and serve exactly as if elected at a municipal election for the office.
This is not the first time this year there has been controversy within the Arcadia City Council. On November 13, 2021, Councilmember Roger Chandler passed away, leaving a vacant seat. December 13, 2021, was the deadline for the City Council to either appoint a replacement for Chandler or call a special election to fill his District 5 seat.
Section 403(c) of the City’s Charter states that “[a]ny vacancy on the Council shall be filled by a majority vote of the remaining Councilmembers within thirty days after the vacancy occurs.” The City Charter goes on to state that “[i]f the Council fails, for any reason, to fill such vacancy within said thirty-day period, it shall forthwith call an election for the earliest possible date to fill such vacancy.”
The City Council felt it was too costly to hold a special election. and City Hall believed there was not adequate time for election results to be certified before the state-mandated April 17 deadline for the Council to adopt new electoral districts. If a new district map was not selected by the deadline, then a superior court judge would likely select a map for the City, and Arcadia would foot the bill.
However, the Council could not agree on a replacement, stymied by a 2-2 tie on votes, so the seat was left vacant for six months, contrary to City law, leaving District 5 without representation.
As reported by ColoradoBoulevard.net, Councilwoman April A. Verlato, asked City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto what would happen if the Council didn’t appoint someone to the seat or hold a special election to fill it. The City Manager replied, “We would be out of compliance with our City Charter, which would make the City highly susceptible to a lawsuit.” He added that the most likely outcome of such a lawsuit would be that a judge would order the Council to hold a special election.
According to Councilmember Verlato, in a May 6, 2022 e-mail sent to ColoradoBoulevard.net and the community:
Mayor Tay and Mayor Pro Tem Cheng refused to vote to appoint either of the candidates Council Member Beck and I nominated (Joyce Platt and Angela Hui). They didn’t want to appoint someone out of fear that an appointee might not vote for a gerrymandered district map that protects Mayor Tay’s ability to run again in District 3.
Finally, in April, the City Council voted unanimously to appoint Mike Danielson to fill the vacant District 5 seat. It appears that consensus to appoint a councilmember was achieved largely to avoid the courts selecting a new district map for the City.
A week after his appointment, Councilmember Danielson, along with Councilmembers Verlato and Beck voted for District Map 115,which was also a map proposed in 2017 when Arcadia converted to district elections. During City Council deliberation on a new district map, Councilmember Verlato advocated that the Council adopt the map Councilmember Beck and she supported in 2017, noting “[t]his map (115) creates a district with the largest voting block of Latino voters (one of the primary objectives of the State law).” The law Verlato is referring to is the California Voting Rights Act which is meant to increase the representation of racial minorities, or protected classes, in local government.
However, Map 115 put Mayor Sho Tay’s residence in District 4, the same as Mayor Pro Tem Cheng, which should not be an issue since Tay, according to the City’s charter and the City Attorney’s interpretation of the California Election Code, is termed out. Incumbency protection is also not to be considered in California redistricting, per Cal. Gov. Code Section 21621(c)(2).
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