Politics Magazine

Palmdale’s Appeal Blocks Court Decision for June Elections

Posted on the 10 January 2014 by Jim Winburn @civicbeebuzz

PALMDALE – The city on Wednesday filed a notice of appeal to a December court decision from a Voting Rights Lawsuit, effectively blocking a court decision forcing the City of Palmdale to hold district elections in June, Palmdale Communications Manager John Mlynar told the Bee.

“We filed our appeal on the judge’s decision of Dec. 23, so his injunction and orders are stayed. No June election,” Mlynar told the Bee in an email.

In a news release on Thursday, City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy stated that Wednesday’s appeal is actually the city’s second one filed in the voting rights case.

“What we filed yesterday is an appeal of Judge Mooney’s Final Order which permanently enjoins at-large elections, prematurely terminates the terms of the existing councilmembers, and orders a district-based election on June 3,” Ditzhazy said. “Our appeal puts everything on hold until the Court of Appeals can rule on it, which means there will be no Palmdale election in June.”

According to the news release, the first appeal was filed in November 2013, which dealt primarily with the certification of the Palmdale’s November elections and why the trial court’s temporary injunction was viewed by Palmdale city officials as improper.

“We are waiting for the Court of Appeals to allow the City to certify that election so we can swear in our duly elected Council,” Ditzhazy stated in the release.

The Palmdale City Council was set to vote on a resolution at Wednesday’s meeting to approve the results of the city’s Nov. 5, 2013 municipal election and install the newly-elected officers. But due to the city’s appeal, the council moved the item to February’s meeting, according to Mlynar.

In the Nov. 5 election, Jim Ledford was re-elected Mayor for his 11th term, and Frederick Thompson was elected to the council along with Tom Lackey, who was re-elected for his third term.

According to a staff report for Wednesday’s meeting, 9,909 ballots were cast in Palmdale on Nov. 5, including 5,050 voter ballots cast by mail and provisional ballots. A voter breakdown of these numbers is provided in the staff report at palmdale.granicus.com.

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Thompson, a retired community college dean who formerly served on the Palmdale Planning Commission and Palmdale School District board, became the first African-American to win a City Council seat, but not the first minority candidate, to win a Citywide election, the news release stated.

“It’s ironic, and frankly sad, that the plaintiffs’ attempts to stop the city’s at-large election has resulted in preventing an African-American from holding office,” said Deputy City Attorney Noel Doran. “A year ago, the plaintiffs trumpeted Mr. Thompson’s prior inability to get elected to the City Council as evidence that Latinos and African-Americans lacked access to the political process. Now that he’s been elected, they question whether or not he was the minority ‘candidate of choice.’”

Doran also stated that the city intends to continue the fight to uphold the legitimacy of its own voters’ decisions when determining Palmdale elections.

“We will continue to work toward protecting our citizens’ constitutional right to determine the manner and method of electing their city leaders,” Doran said.

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