North Monterey County Unified School District Bond Measures – We Think They’re Illegal

A state and local trend toward “democracy” in California is to schedule elections for the routine primary and general election dates in even years, when Americans generally expect votes to occur for President, Congress, Governor, state legislature, and other high-profile offices. This means local governments generally do not schedule local elections in odd years (such as 2017) or at atypical times when few people anticipate needing to vote.

The board of trustees of the North Monterey County Unified School District defied that trend toward democracy at its August 3, 2017 meeting when it scheduled an election for November 7, 2017 to seek voter approval for two ballot measures to authorize borrowing a total of $76 million via bond sales.

North Monterey County Unified School District Alone on November 7 2017 Monterey County Ballot
Lonely on the ballot in Monterey County: board seats for two of five trustee seats in the district and two bond measures for all five trustee seats in the district.

Justified or not, this school district has developed a local reputation for poor fiscal management. It’s now seeking to borrow an amount that will apparently require the State Board of Education to provide a waiver from statutory debt limits.

A cynic might conclude that a bond advisor or political consultant suggested to the school district that it hold its election for these bond measures on an obscure date. This would allow vested interests (such as the construction industry, labor unions, and the municipal bond industry) to activate a small percentage of voters likely to support the bond measures, while other voters in the district remain unaware of the election.

A letter from a statewide coalition concerned about the illegality of the North Monterey County Unified School District bond measures (see below) and a letter from Salinas Taxpayers Association letter (see below) was sent before the Monterey County Board of Supervisors August 29 vote to put the two North Monterey County Unified School District bond measures on the November 7, 2017 ballot. These letters asserted that there is a valid argument to conclude the North Monterey County Unified School District illegally put these bond measures on that ballot.

However, at the recommendation of the Monterey County counsel, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 (with one absence) to put the bond measures on the ballot. There are legitimate grounds for a lawsuit, but cancelling an election is a dramatic action fraught with risk, and it is unlikely that a judge will stop the election with an injunction.

In the long term, the issue will be moot. We predict the North Monterey County Unified School District will switch its elections to even years – the years every other Monterey County local government uses for elections – after the bond measures pass on November 7, 2017.

News Coverage:

North Monterey County Unified puts $76 million bonds on ballotMonterey Herald – August 28, 2017

Voters to pick North Monterey County Unified School District trustees in only election this fall – Monterey Herald – July 18, 2017 (This article does not mention the school district’s plan to vote on August 3 to put the bond measures on the November 7, 2017 ballot.

Campaign Finance:

“Committee to Support North Monterey County Unified School District Bonds” – Campaign Contribution Reports Source: Monterey County Elections Office: http://public.netfile.com/pub2/AllFilingsByFiler.aspx?id=165725181)

 


Salinas Taxpayers Association Letter

August 28, 2017

Dear Board of Supervisors:

The Salinas Taxpayers Association is opposed to Item #59 on the August 29, 2017 board agenda. This item would authorize the Registrar of Voters to render specified election services to North Monterey County Unified School District for the November 7, 2017 School District Election.

The only election scheduled in Monterey County on November 7, 2017 is for two out of five of the board seats for the North Monterey County Unified School District, which holds district elections. Essentially, the election for the two bond measures is a special election for three-fifths of the electors of the North Monterey County Unified School District. The only purpose for those voters to go to the polls is to vote on the two bond measures.

We reject the opinion issued by the Monterey County Counsel on August 28, 2017 seemingly contending that all of the electors of the “North Monterey Unified School District” (sic) are entitled to vote on November 7, 2017 – as required in California Education Code Section 15266(a) – because they will be voting on the bond measure itself. This is an egregious example of the logical fallacy known as circulus in probando, or circular reasoning, in which the situation itself is cited to validate the situation.

We also reject any arguments contending that all of the electors of the school district are entitled to vote on November 7, 2017 because either bond measure can be considered as a condition that allows the other bond measure for purposes of making all electors in the school district eligible to vote. Creatively interpreting the law through circular reasoning should not be used to get these bond measures on the November 7, 2017 ballot.

You may be aware of several changes to California law in recent years to ensure greater participation in elections and discourage isolated special elections in which a very low percentage of voters ends up participating. These statutory changes are often described as “democratic” and even “progressive.” Why would Monterey County go in the opposite direction?

Allowing these bond measures to appear on the November 7, 2017 ballot in the North Monterey County Unified School District violates the letter and spirit of the law. It serves as another example of how political consultants have developed a toolbox full of tricks to ensure school districts can evade public accountability when they want to borrow money for facilities construction. Please look beyond emotional appeals and ask the North Monterey County Unified School District to follow the rules that apply to every other school district in Monterey County and in the State of California.

Sincerely,

Kevin Dayton
2017-18 President
Salinas Taxpayers Association

Coalition Letter from “Big Bad Bonds™ – Clearinghouse Opposing the Coming Deluge in School and Community College Bonds”

Monterey County ROV Notice and Demand

NOTICE AND DEMAND

TO:

Claudio Valenzuela
Monterey County Registrar of Voters
1444 Schilling Pl North, Salinas, CA 93901

Luis Alejo
John M. Phillips
Simon Salinas
Jane Parker
Mary L. Adams
Office of Clerk of the Board
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
166 W Alisal St, Salinas, CA 93901

Charles J. McKee
County Counsel, County of Monterey
166 W Alisal St, Salinas, CA 93901

Dr. Nancy Kotowski
Monterey County Superintendent of Schools
901 Blanco Cir, Salinas, CA 93901

Mary A. Zeeb
Treasurer-Tax Collector, County of Monterey
166 W Alisal St, Salinas, CA 93901

August 28, 2017

While this letter is primarily directed at the Registrar of Voters, you all have a statutory role in connection with school district bond elections. Furthermore, you have all taken an oath to uphold the laws of California.

NOTICE

North Monterey County Unified School District (“District”) measures designated E and F by the Monterey County Registrar of Voters do NOT qualify to be placed on the ballot at the regularly scheduled November 7, 2017 local election.

The controlling law for Proposition 39 bond elections, Education Code 15266(a), states, in relevant part,

An election may only be ordered on the question of whether bonds of a school district … shall be issued and sold … at a primary or general election, a regularly scheduled local election at which all of the electors of the school district … are entitled to vote, or a statewide special election. [Emphasis added.]

Of the four types of elections at which Proposition 39 bonds may be ordered, the third, a “regularly scheduled local election,” is restricted to one at “at which all of the electors … are entitled to vote.” It is a condition precedent for an election order and not curable by the order itself.

The District has opted to have its five-member governing board elected by trustee area. Only two of those trustee areas are scheduled for election on November 7th and one of them will not be on the ballot.

Therefore the qualification that “all of the electors of the school district” be entitled to vote at this election is not met. There is no other regularly scheduled local election on November 7th that includes “all of the electors of the school district.”

DEMAND

The undersigned, on behalf of all of the people of Monterey County, demand that you follow the clear and unequivocal statutory prohibition and remove both Measures E and F from the ballot.

Allowing the election process to proceed will waste public resources and cause the people of Monterey County immeasurable and irreparable harm.

The unlawful acts of District officials have already wasted both District and County public resources. You should not force taxpayers of Monterey County to file a lawsuit and further waste County and State public resources.

Sincerely,

Lawrence Samuels, Vice Chair
Seaside Taxpayers Association

Alex Aliferis, former Executive Director
Contra Costa County Taxpayers’ Association

Jon Coupal, President
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Kevin Dayton, President
Salinas Taxpayers Association

George Guynn Jr, President
Solano County Taxpayers Association

Rick Heuer, President
Monterey Peninsula Taxpayers Association

Mike LaMond, Taxpayer Watchdog

Richard Michael, Web Site Owner
California School Bonds Clearinghouse

M. Kevin O’Neill, President
California Taxpayer Action Network (CalTAN)

Stephen Petzold, Chair
Taxpayers Against Measure E (TAME)

Ourania Riddle, Award Recipient
2015 HJTA Taxfighter of the Year

Ludd Trozpek, Taxpayer Watchdog

Dawn Urbanek, Taxpayer Watchdog
People for Student Rights

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