October 16, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Santa Monica Continues District Election Appeal Despite Budget Deficit

Plaintiff attorney sends open letter to City Council to drop appeal

By Sam Catanzaro

The City of Santa Monica, facing a $224 million budget deficit, continues to appeal a court ruling mandating district elections–spending by some estimates over $10 million– saying that there are no further legal costs, a claim a lawyer for the plaintiffs describes as “disingenuous”.

The case, Pico Neighborhood Association, et al. v. City of Santa Monica, filed by plaintiffs Pico Neighborhood Association, Maria Loya and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools alleges that Santa Monica’s at-large election system dilutes Latino voting power in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) and discriminates against Latino voters in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution.

In a ruling released February 15, 2019, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos ordered that all future elections for seats on the Santa Monica City Council be based on a seven-district map drawn by an expert for the plaintiffs. The City is currently appealing this decision. A trial date has yet to be set.

In an open letter sent last week to Santa Monica City Council–who voted in February 2019 to pursue the appeal–plaintiff attorney Kevin Shenkman said that if the City drops the appeal, he would work with officials on implementation of the district elections and would be “reasonable” in accommodating payment of plaintiff attorneys’ fees.

“I have no love for any of you, and I relish the day when your appeals run out and you must surrender unconditionally in the voting rights lawsuit. Yet, in watching the City of Santa Monica struggle with the financial fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, I sympathize with those most hurt by the City’s budget cuts,” Shenkman wrote. “Drop the ill-conceived appeal now, and we will work with you on implementation of the district elections ordered by the Los Angeles Superior Court, and we will be reasonable in accommodating the City’s payment of our attorneys’ fees. For you to do otherwise would be unfair to the hundreds of additional city employees who could lose their jobs if you continue to make the wrong decision.”

Earlier this month, facing a $224 million budget deficit, Santa Monica City Council approved plans to layoff over 400 employees and implement sweeping service reductions.

Interim City Attorney George Cardona when asked how the City could justify spending funds on the case in the light of the deficit told the Santa Monica Mirror that there is no further expenditure of City funds in regards to the appeal.

“As we have argued from the start, plaintiffs should recover no fees or costs because the City’s election system is fair and complies with the law. We remain hopeful that the Court of Appeal will agree and will reverse the trial court’s judgment, which is the only basis for any award of fees or costs. The investment in the appeal has already been made and there is no further expenditure of City funds ongoing with respect to the appeal, which we believe, for the reasons set forth in our briefs, should be successful,” Cardona said.

R. Rex Parris, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, describes this claim as “disingenuous”, citing that defense lawyers for the City must prepare for the hearing in mock trials. Parris told the Santa Monica Mirror that he estimates four to five attorneys are participating in these mock trials and are getting paid “a fortune”.

When asked to estimate how much the City has spent on the case so far, Parris said in the $12 million range. Parris recounted seeing during the trial 11 “white-collar” lawyers for the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP representing City, all making, by his estimates, at least $600 an hour. In addition, Parris estimates that Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., one of the defenses’ lead attorneys, makes around $1,600 an hour.

“They spend money like it is being printed in the basement,” Parris said. “Most of the City’s workforce is overpaid.”

in News
Related Posts

Santa Monica’s 100 Homes Initiative Moves Forward

October 16, 2021

October 16, 2021

City seeks public participation in new HUD-funded program By Dolores Quintana The City of Santa Monica is moving forward with...

Former Mesa PD Chief to Lead Santa Monica Police Department

October 15, 2021

October 15, 2021

Ramon Batista selected as Santa Monica’s first Latino police chief By Sam Catanzaro Ramon Batista, Jr., the former police chief...

Closing Celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month Today

October 14, 2021

October 14, 2021

This Friday, October 15, the Santa Monica community is invited to a closing ceremony for Santa Monica’s first Hispanic Heritage...

Three SMC Professors Receive First-Ever Michelson Intellectual Property Educator of Excellence Award

October 13, 2021

October 13, 2021

The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property (Michelson  IP) is proud to award three Santa Monica College faculty members with the...

An Interview with Zach Rash, CEO of Coco Food Robotic Delivery

October 11, 2021

October 11, 2021

Coco Delivery, is a completely contactless food delivery service that uses human piloted robots to deliver meals from the restaurant...

Message From Santa Monica’s New City Manager David White

October 11, 2021

October 11, 2021

To the Santa Monica Community – it is with tremendous excitement that today I begin my first day as your...

Three Santa Monica College Faculty Receive Michelson IP Educator Award: Santa Monica Beat – October 11, 2021

October 11, 2021

October 11, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * City Council Set To Approve Plan For 9 Thousand New Housing...

U.S Secretary of Veterans Affairs Visits Veterans Encampment Outside VA

October 11, 2021

October 11, 2021

On Wednesday, the Secretary of U.S. Veterans Affairs and Mark Takano visited the veterans homeless encampment along san vicente blvd....

Mid-Century Ocean Avenue Apartments Sell for $70 Million

October 9, 2021

October 9, 2021

Westside Real Estate Scene October 11, 2021 By Dolores Quintana As reported by the Santa Monica Lookout, a mid-century apartment...

Santa Monica Police Release Sketch of Suspects Wanted for Ocean Park Shooting

October 7, 2021

October 7, 2021

Santa Monica police have released sketches of two men wanted in connection to a recent shooting.  According to the Santa...

Hotels, Liquor Stores to be Allowed on Third Street Promenade

October 7, 2021

October 7, 2021

Santa Monica City Council approves temporary zoning changes for Promenade By Dolores Quintana and Sam Catanzaro Hotels and liquor stores...

Santa Monica Selects Joseph Lawrence as Interim City Attorney

October 7, 2021

October 7, 2021

Search for permanent City Attorney to begin soon By Sam Catanzaro At its meeting last week, the Santa Monica City...

Santa Monica Sues Real Estate Firm for Converting Rent-Controlled Units Into Vacation Rentals

October 7, 2021

October 7, 2021

City of Santa Monica files complaint against NMS Properties Corporation  By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica is suing a real estate...

Santa Monica College to Hold Glass Pumpkin Sales This Weekend

October 5, 2021

October 5, 2021

Help Support SMC Art Department, Santa Monica Public Library, Palisades-Malibu YMCA By Staff Writer Santa Monica College will hold two...

Party Bus Driver Flees Following Santa Monica Crash That Injured Multiple People

October 5, 2021

October 5, 2021

SMPD investigating October 3 incident By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police are searching for the driver of a party bus...