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Sep162019

Law Makers and Law Breakers

by Lou Binninger

 

Each year the state legislature passes more than 900 laws by finding something new the citizens are doing wrong. We started with the Ten Commandments but now have thousands of laws in the “Golden State” to keep us in check?

 

            The most egregious law breakers are those that make them. In fact, law makers live like they are above the law.

 

            The Freedom of Information Act instructs government to provide requested documents in 10 days but it took months for Yuba County to produce the initial costs of the Measure K campaign. In fact, using the public’s money for a campaign to convince people that they should pay more taxes is illegal but it was done by Yuba County Supervisors anyway.

 

            The free speech clauses of the Federal and State Constitutions prohibit the use of governmentally compelled monetary contributions (including taxes) to support or oppose political campaigns since “Such contributions are a form of speech, and compelled speech offends the First Amendment.”  Smith v. U.C. Regents (1993) 4 Cal.4th 843, 852.

 

And, the “Use of the public treasury to mount an election campaign which attempts to influence the resolution of issues which our Constitution leaves to the ‘free election’ of the people (see Const., art. II, § 2) … presents a serious threat to the integrity of the electoral process.” Stanson v. Mott (1976) 17 Cal.3d 206, 218.

 

Yuba County has been spending money furiously for legal fees, public relations and campaign paraphernalia now for 2 years to trip-up voters. There really is no one to hold them accountable. The district attorney who is supposed to be impartial and prosecuting wrong doing was an advocate of the campaign.

 

People were shocked that the County Supervisors were able to vote to appeal Judge Stephen Berrier’s ruling against Measure K so quickly and in secret. The county attorney had begun putting the item on the meeting agenda to comply with the Brown Act so the Supervisors could address a defeat when it came.

 

The Brown Act was created to keep the people’s business in the open rather than being done behind closed doors. Since Measure K had been a very public debate and a measure put on the ballot by the board why did they meet in closed session following the judge’s ruling? It was inappropriate and unethical.

 

The people had a right to hear and be heard by the board about the appeal of Measure K.  There had been hundreds of thousands of their tax dollars flitted away, a public campaign and vote, and an open court proceeding. Social media had been alive with debate for months. What had to be kept confidential?

 

Now, some supervisors are blocking people from communicating with them via social media about Measure K. That is also against the law for elected officials.   In Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. Trump, 928 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 2019), it was decided just months ago by the Federal Appellate Court that “the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise–open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.” 

 

The Appellate Court found the blocking unconstitutional, even though President Trump opened the account as a personal account before his presidency and would retain personal control over account after his presidency. 

 

So, Supervisors Bradford and Fletcher along with any others utilizing blocking to censure speech of their constituents is illegal.

Finally, though not illegal, hypocrisy by county officials is troubling. The county administrator was quoted in the Appeal Democrat saying “It’s unfortunate that out-of-town organizations and an ex-politician felt they had to twist the purpose of Measure K in order to undo the will of our voters.”

 

Plaintiff Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is the most highly respected public service nonprofit in the state helping people stay in their homes and protect their rights.  And law firm Bell, McAndrews and Hilltachk, LLP of Sacramento (representing Measure K opponents) is regarded as top election law experts in the state.

 

The county already had staff attorneys but hired a Nevada County law firm to defend Measure K and used an “award winning ballot measure consulting firm” from Oakland, CA. to snooker the voters. In fact, the CAO doesn’t even live in the community. Who actually “twisted the purpose of Measure K” is in the eye of the beholder and the courts.

 

Was the Bendorf’s noted “ex-politician” John Mistler? Mistler served four years on the Yuba County Board of Supervisors, but most of his life he earned an honorable living doing carpentry, being a manager at Montgomery Wards, being a volunteer firefighter and owning the Territorial Dispatch newspaper.

 

(Get Lou’s podcast at “No Hostages Radio” and his articles at nohostagesradio.com)