[KHTS] – A lawsuit over alleged California Voting Rights Act violations prompted a Los Angeles County judge to initiate contempt proceedings against four Palmdale city officials, including a candidate for the 36th Assembly District, officials said Friday.
Judge Mark V. Mooney’s ruling gives four Palmdale City Council members — Tom Lackey, Steve Hofbauer, Mike Dispenza and Fred Thompson — 21 days to show the court why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for violating the court’s ruling, according to Kevin Shenkman of Shenkman & Hughes, an attorney for the plaintiff suing Palmdale.
Palmdale officials decried the move as “unprecedented, contrary to the law and effectively (a denial of Palmdale’s rights),” according a statement from City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy.
The city plans to appeal Monday morning, Ditzhazy said, the latest in a flurry of appellate efforts fromPalmdale as it fights Mooney’s rulings that called the city’s election’s illegal, which the state’s Supreme Court has already declined to review once.
In response to the state Supreme Court’s decision not to review, the city moved forward with a different set of appeals.
Shenkman criticized Palmdale officials, especially Lackey, who’s running for a seat in the Assembly covering a portion of the Santa Clarita Valley, for willfully ignoring the court’s orders.
“It’s not becoming of someone who seeks to represent, not just Palmdale, but also the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys in the state’s Assembly,” Shenkman said, referring to the retired CHP officer, “to demonstrate such lawlessness and disdain for the judicial branch of government.”
The same can be said for the other four council members, he added.
In December, Mooney barred Palmdale from holding at-large elections, terminated the terms of the existing councilmembers and ordered a district-based election June 3.
“After an eight-day trial in May and a careful analysis of the evidence and the law, the court found that the city of Palmdale is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act,” Shenkman said back in July 2013, “and that the California Voting Rights Act is constitutional in its application to the city of Palmdale.”
Lackey’s race for the 36th Assembly District seat could be a crucial race in the state Assembly, because Lackey, if elected, could threaten the Democrats’ supermajority in the Legislature, according to a Sacramento Bee report. He’s running against Democratic incumbent Steve Fox, D-Antelope Valley.
Santa Clarita, which was also sued over an alleged CVRA violation, is still in litigation with firms including Shenkman & Hughes as far as how the city’s future elections are going to be affected.
No CVRA lawsuit has ever been successfully defended, according to officials.
Palmdale officials again criticized the lawsuit as disingenuous Friday, with Mayor Jim Ledford noting R. Rex Parris, a prominent attorney and mayor of Lancaster, is helping the plaintiffs in the suit against Palmdale, yet runs a city with at-large elections.
“If Parris thinks so highly of districted voting, one must ask why he hasn’t implemented it in his own city before involving himself in the cities of Palmdale, Santa Clarita and more recently Highland?” Ledford said, in a statement. “If this isn’t a classic example of ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ I don’t know what is.”
The Palmdale City Council is expected to hold a City Council meeting Wednesday, which could be viewed as a further act of contempt, punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or five days in jail, Shenkman said.