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The Public Forum . . . El Foro Público

Created: 25 September, 2009
Updated: 20 April, 2022

City of Chula Vista appointment process has many in the community upset over the process

 Editor’s Note:  The city council for the City of Chula Vista had hoped for a fast and expediate process this past Tuesday in filling the seat for the absent council member John McCann. The plan was to have a council member selected from the three people who received the required two nominations from the sitting council members. This schedule was thrown off track when a Chula Vista citizen sent a letter to the city that in essence said the council was acting contrary to the city charter and that a lawsuit would be filed if the council went ahead and appointed a person to fill this seat.

 Attached is the letter sent to the City Attorny by this citizen outlining the arguments and rational for his actions.


Bart Miesfeld, City Attorney

City of Chula Vista

276 Fourth Avenue

Chula Vista, CA 91910
Mr. Miesfeld:

 This letter is in opposition of the proposed action by the City Council to appoint a person to serve on the City Council in the place of Mr. John McCann.

 The actions of the Council to appoint someone to “fill” the seat in Mr. McCann’s absence is not consistent with the City’s Charter of state elections code, nor does it protect the rights of the voters of Chula Vista who cast their votes in a duly certified election. The Council’s proposed action attempts to treat Mr. McCann’s absence as a vacancy; however, the Charter clearly defines the circumstances under which a vacancy occurs as:

 “If a member of the City Council is absent from four (4) consecutive regular meetings of the City Council scheduled and held, unless by permission of the City Council expressed in its official minutes contemporaneously with such absences or sooner, or is convicted of a felony or crime involving moral turpitude, or submits a letter of resignation to the City Clerk, the office shall become vacant as of the date of the last absence (in the case of four unexcused, consecutive absences from regular City Council meetings), the date of such conviction (in the case of conviction of a felony or crime involving moral turpitude), or the effective date of resignation as set forth in such letter of resignation, as applicable. The permission of the Council shall be granted for any temporary illness of the requesting Councilmember disabling him or her from attendance of such meeting. The City Council shall declare the existence of any vacancy or anticipated vacancy as soon as practicable.”

 It is clear that a vacancy does not exist under the provisions of our Charter. The voters elected Mr. McCann and unless he was to be removed, resign, or was unable to continue his term, the Council cannot make an appointment. The City Council has accepted Mr. McCann’s anticipated absences as excused in light of his deployment as a member of the United States Naval Reserves.

 The City Council has continued to conduct the business of the city in a timely and effective manner during the past two months while Mr. McCann has been absent. There is no compelling reason to attempt an appointment at this time. The Council cannot simply take it upon itself to appoint someone else to Mr. McCann’s seat while he is serving our Country.

 A lawsuit will be filed if the Council continues down the path of appointment without valid legal authority to do so.

 I hope that, in order to protect the voters’ rights and taxpayers’ dollars, the Council will conclude that it is unwise to proceed with an appointment.

Richard Alvarez
Chula Vista, CA

 “TRUST” and “TRANSPARENCY” are two words that members of the current City Council have used over and over again to characterize themselves.  Poooof  — they are both disappearing before our eyes.

 When Councilman John McCann had to leave for military duty in Iraq, the Council decided to appoint an interim Councilmember until John returned home.  With appropriate public notice, 27 Chula Vista citizens applied for the interim appointment.

 The Council decided they would first select those applicants who would be interviewed by the Council. The process was that each of the four Council members would indicate which of the applicants they wished to have interviewed.  The Council members had an unlimited number of votes – they could vote for all 27 if they wished.  All the applicants who received at least two votes would be interviewed.

 Incredibly, it was announced that only three applicants had received at least two votes. If this was an honest, non-collusive process, the result baffles the laws of probability! Although not likely, there could have been as many as 108 votes cast by the four Council persons. An applicant only needed two votes to be granted an interview. Yet we are told that only three applicants received at least two votes.

 We immediately filed a “Public Records Request” to find out how the Council pulled off this miracle of mathematics, how did the various Council members vote that such a seemingly impossible result could occur. We later found out that at least one other citizen did likewise.

 Instead of any information and any “public records,” the City Attorney told us that some obscure government law allowed the information be kept secret. All we were asking for was to know how our Council members voted on a public matter.

 The last time that this process was used was in December 2005 when the Council appointed a replacement for Council member Patty Davis, who had resigned. After some concern had been expressed, the City Attorney released a report of who each of the four Council members had voted for to be interviewed. It was printed in the Union-Tribune on January 6, 2006.

 I very well remember that in the 1970s and 1980s, the Council did the actual voting for such procedures in public. Their motto, which they stated often, was that “the public’s business ought to be done in public.”

 Now we are told that the Council can make these decisions in private behind locked doors, even when the result shouts “collusion” all over it. It is not easy to defy the laws of probability.

 I urge the City Council to order the City Attorney to release the information as to how it was that only three out of 27 applicants received two or more votes when each Council-member had an unlimited number of votes.

 “Trust” — are you kidding?  “Transparency” – where??

Peter Watry
Chula Vista

 P.S.  The City Attorney also wrote:  “I would like to thank you in advance for your courtesy, cooperation, and understanding of the City’s legitimate position in attempting to preserve the integrity of the legislative deliberative process.”  Hogwash – the public’s business ought to be done in public.  The “legislative deliberative process” he refers to I assume to be the collusion that must have taken place.