Dunsmuir citizens challenge council decisions

Skye Kinkade

Siskiyou County Clerk Colleen Setzer verified two “referendum petitions” in the past week that challenge ordinances passed by the Dunsmuir City Council.

The petitions, each signed by at least 100 Dunsmuir registered voters, protest an ordinance that repealed the city’s municipal code regarding cultivation of medical marijuana and the resolution that hired David Hicks as city attorney.

According to the text of California Election Code 9237, those ordinances are now suspended until the council repeals them or votes to place them on either a special election or general election ballot.

Dunsmuir City Manager Brenda Bains said both referendums will be items on the agenda for the council’s next regular meeting, scheduled for Thursday, May 1, at 6 p.m. The meeting is being held in the Dunsmuir Community Building to accommodate the large crowd that is anticipated.

Because Dunsmuir has fewer than 1,000 registered voters, only 100 signatures were required to make the petitions valid, according to the Election Code.

On the petition against the cultivation ordinance’s repeal, 105 signatures were submitted, and none were disqualified, according to Setzer’s April 15 Certificate of Sufficiency.

Setzer’s verified that 119 signatures were submitted on the referendum protesting the hiring of Hicks, and 115 were valid. Of the invalid signatures, four were invalid because the person who signed was not a registered voter within the city and one was a duplicate signature.

Hicks said he plans to advise the city on the marijuana ordinance referendum, “but I will probably excuse myself from the other issue because of a conflict of interest.”

He said he plans to contribute to the discussion by leaving his city attorney seat at the council’s table and speaking from the podium as a member of the public.

Former Dunsmuir city councilor Mario Rubino, who worked on the referendum petition to repeal Hicks’s contract, said he believes the “procedures by which Hicks’s employment transpired” were “wrong and illegal.”

Rubino said he believes the Hicks contract was “poorly written” and “not at all in the best interest of the citizens and budget of Dunsmuir.”

“It’s my personal belief that Hicks is a very bad fit for Dunsmuir because of the controversy surrounding him and his lawsuit against the city,” said Rubino, who lost his seat on the council in a 2010 recall election.

Dunsmuir City Councilor Tim Padula, who was one of three councilors to approve Hicks’s hire on April 3, along with Leslie Wilde and Scott Welch, called Hicks “a fine man with a great record.”

Padula, who who served on the city council from 2006 until he resigned in 2008, then was elected to serve a partial term last November, said Hicks was hired legally in a properly noticed open session with closed-session contract discussion a couple days later.

“I understand a couple of people are loudly upset because they think Mr. Hicks sued the city, a mistaken concept for sure," said Padula.  "Mr. Hicks was hired by the man suing the city. He did not sue the city.”

Padula believes a petition to remove Hicks is not legal. “People may not referendum-out or remove a person from this hired position any more than the city manager or any other city employee can be removed by petition,” he said.

Rubino said he published the petition on Sunday, April 13, and finished gathering the requisite 100 signatures around noon on Tuesday, April 15.

Dunsmuir’s Mabel Kelby, who worked on the petition against the marijuana cultivation ordinance repeal, said it took her “a couple weeks” from the time she ran across the referendum petition process during online research and the time Setzer’s office verified the 105 signatures.

“Nothing about what’s going on in Dunsmuir makes sense,” Kelby said. She called the referendum petition process “a last resort for voters when their elected officials are out of control.” She said it is used when the voters can “no longer trust their elected officials to make good decisions or conduct public business in an orderly way.”

Padula called the marijuana issue “very contentious.”

“I have a zero tolerance job and do not smoke nor grow marijuana but also feel patients have the right to follow their physician's instructions,” Padula said. “Prop. 215 states one can not make it too expensive or difficult for patients to grow their medicine. This is why I feel it is right and proper to have removed this illegal ordinance that had paperwork attached clearly showing ill intent towards patients... I do not feel the city of Dunsmuir has the right to work above the government... This is about people thinking they have the right to interfere with the State and the patient/doctor relationship.

About Election Code 9237

According to the Election Code 9237, a petition protesting the adoption of an ordinance must be submitted to the elections official within 30 days from when it was adopted. It must be signed by 10 percent or more of the voters of the city, or, in a city with 1,000 or fewer registered voters, it must be signed by not less than 25 percent of the voters or 100 voters of the city, whichever is the lesser.

Once the petition is filed, the effective date of the ordinance is suspended and the legislative body shall reconsider the ordinance, according to the Code.

If the legislative body does not entirely repeal the ordinance against which the petition is filed, the legislative body shall submit the ordinance to the voters, either at the next regular municipal election occurring not less than 88 days after the order of the legislative body, or at a special election called for the purpose, the Code states.

“If the legislative body repeals the ordinance or submits the ordinance to the voters, and a majority of the voters... do not vote in favor of it, the ordinance shall not again be enacted by the legislative body for a period of one year after the date of its repeal.”