UKIAH, 5/4/2017 — A Mendocino Superior Court judge has dismissed a complaint against the City of Ukiah regarding a tax measure intended to fix the city streets. Measure Y, a general sales tax measure which passed with a slim majority last November, proposed to raise sales tax in the city by one-half percent. Measure Z, an advisory measure which also passed, asked voters if they wanted monies raised to be used for repairing existing streets.
On January 6, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association plus eight Ukiah residents, filed a complaint for declaratory relief against the city, saying that Measure Y was actually a special tax, which would have required a two-thirds majority to pass. Special taxes raise funds for specific purposes, while revenue from general taxes goes into the general fund and can be used for any purpose. Advisory ballot measures are non-binding.
On April 7, Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Jeanine Nadel held a hearing where Timothy Bittle, of HJTA, and David Rapport, the Ukiah city attorney, argued the case. At that time, Nadel did not issue a ruling, saying she would do so in writing. On May 1, she filed her ruling to dismiss the HJTA case, without leave to amend. HJTA attempted to file an amendment to the original complaint, as well as a complaint for a reverse validation, which includes a strict protocol for timely filings and publication requirements.
At the hearing in April, Bittle contended that the Ukiah City Council failed to announce the passage of Y and Z, which, he claimed, was a violation of the election code. Nadel wrote that HJTA did not follow proper procedures in filing the lawsuit. She wrote that “the exclusive remedy to challenge the tax adopted by the City voters is an action for reverse validation…Even if this court were to believe Plaintiff’s claim is based solely on the City Council’s failure to declare the results of the vote, the requirement to bring a validation action remains applicable.”
Nadel did not accept HJTA’s explanation that an inexperienced attorney who no longer works at the association was responsible for the failure to comply with the requirements.
The taxpayer’s association has 60 days from receiving formal notice of the ruling to appeal the judge’s decision. In the meantime, the revenue collected under Measure Y is being held in an escrow account. If HJTA appeals, the money will continue to be held in the account for the duration of the appeals process.
You can read our previous coverage of the lawsuit here.
Sarah Reith, [email protected].