Bear Flag LeagueCaliforniaPoliticsProposition 77Special Election 2005

Was Secretary of State Bruce McPherson Duped into Certifying Proposition 77?

A FLAP has begun with the disclosure that California Governor Arnold Swarzenegger’s Administration and proponents of Proposition 77, the redistrcting initiative, knew about legal problems with the measure more than a week before they were disclosed.

Though the legal tactics varied, the bottom line was much the same: a concern that Secretary of State Bruce McPherson might have been duped into certifying Proposition 77 for the ballot by untimely notification of its legal glitch.

“As I’m sure you can appreciate, it is absolutely essential that the secretary of state be perceived as fair and impartial in his conduct relating to elections,” attorney Lance Olson, representing a group opposing Proposition 77, said in a letter Friday to McPherson.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s office called circumstances surrounding the case “extremely troubling” and asked proponents Friday to voluntarily provide documents that could shed light on the chain of events leading to the controversy.

Sounds like political posturing for public consumption while behind the scenes negotiations are occuring between the Speaker and the Governor’s office to make a deal/trade of redistricting for a modification of term limits.

Friday’s legal wrangling was ignited, in part, by disclosure Thursday that the Republican governor’s legal affairs secretary, Peter Siggins, and an attorney for the measure’s proponents, Daniel Kolkey, knew about the legal glitch but did not report it until after McPherson certified the measure.

Olson claims that timely notification could have stopped Proposition 77 in its tracks, but that the legal burden shifts once a measure is officially certified as having attracted an adequate number of voter signatures.

McPherson contends he has a legal obligation to place onto the ballot any certified measure.

Opponents also seized Friday on a disclosure by Siggins and Kolkey that they talked with each other about the issue before notifying McPherson’s office, and that they later talked individually with a high-ranking member of the secretary of state’s staff, Undersecretary Bill Wood.

And, of course, their intention was to certify this measure for the ballot at any cost. This is an initiative to benefit the voter?

Please!

Siggins and Kolkey said Thursday that they did not intentionally wait until after certification to notify the secretary of state’s office, but that they needed some time to research legal issues regarding the differences in text, which they contend are minor and immaterial.

The duo also claimed there was nothing unethical about their conversations with each other about Proposition 77 and that they exerted no pressure on the secretary of state’s office.

Gale Kaufman, a political consultant to Assembly Democrats, said she fears that the initiative process has been abused.

“People are hiding what was really going on. They delayed the process, and now their excuse is, ‘It’s really inconsequential,’ ” she said. “I think it’s very consequential.”

Olson’s letter to McPherson on Friday asked the latter to reconsider his decision to place Proposition 77 on the ballot in light of the disclosures by Siggins and Kolkey.

All political banter….. wait until the hearing on the 21st.

McPherson, through an attorney, responded in writing to Olson, saying that he is seeking judicial guidance on how to proceed.

“Whatever the court decides, (he) will implement without reservation,” wrote the attorney, Angela Schrimp de la Vergne.

Lockyer’s office, in a separate letter Friday to Kolkey, questioned whether the textual differences in Proposition 77’s documents were an “intentional rewrite” rather than a simple mistake, as claimed by the proponents.

Ahhhhh arguments for next Thursday.

Lockyer noted that proponents did not promptly notify McPherson about potential legal problems, and that the attorney general’s office was not alerted until an additional 18 days had passed.

The leader of the initiative drive, Ted Costa, contacted the attorney general’s office on June 21 seeking a title and summary for Proposition 77 to be placed on the ballot. But he failed to mention the legal glitch, the attorney general claimed.

“These facts are extremely troubling, and they raise serious questions about the chain of events involved,” wrote Richard M. Frank, chief deputy attorney general for legal affairs.

Kolkey, contacted Friday evening, said he had just received Frank’s letter and had not yet read it. Costa was unavailable for comment.

It appears that Lockyer is blathering in the press because his legal case is weak.

Flap handicaps a very very likely chance that the measure will proceed to the ballot, but wonders if it will be traded away for other modified propositions, stipulating a change in redistricting process, but also changing the term limit law, Prop. 140.

Ted Costa will have to enlighten us at the Bear Flag League Summer Conference tomorrow.

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Cross-posted to the Bear Flag League Special Election Page