Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Moss has ordered “City of Anaheim Commissioner” to be removed as Council District 6 candidate Patty Gaby’s ballot designation and candidate statement. Judge Moss ruled Gaby’s use of that title violated California election law. Her ballot title will be simply “Teacher” rather than “Teacher/City of Anaheim Commissioner.”
The judge also ordered that Gaby’s candidate statement be changed to remove her claim to District 6 residents that she serves “as your Anaheim Hills representative,” as well as the sentence “We must end special interest influence at City Hall.”
The judge also ruled that petitioner Amelia Castro is entitled to recover court costs and attorneys fees from Gaby.
Shortly after filing to run for city council from District 6, Gaby was appointed by the Tait council majority to fill an “unscheduled vacancy” on the Anaheim Parks and Recreation Commission in April of this year. The intent was to allow her to use “city commissioner” in her ballot title.
Sure enough, when Gaby completed her candidate filing last month, she chose the ballot designation “Teacher/City of Anaheim Commission.” A good ballot designation is worth votes.
Afterward, Anaheim voter Amelia Castro filed suit objecting to Gaby’s use of “City of ANaheim Commissioner” as a ballot designation, as well as candidate statement passages saying “We must end special interest influence at City Hall” and one claiming she is the Anaheim Hill’s representative on the city Parks Commission.
Gaby’s Use of “City of Anaheim Commissioner” A Violation of California Elections Code.
According to state election law, a candidate’s ballot designation must be the candidate’s principal profession, vocation or occupation.
Judge Moss ruled Gaby’s use of “City of Anaheim Commissioner violated” that provision of state election law:
Real party’s principal profession appears to be that of a teacher. There is no evidence that real party was elected by a vote of the people to the position of City Parks Commissioner. Based upon the evidence before the court, the position of City of Anaheim Parks Commissioner is an appointed, unpaid, volunteer position.
While the Legislature has recognized certain specified unpaid community volunteer positions as a “profession” or “occupation” for purposes of a candidate statement (See Elections Code § 13107.5), real party’s acting as a volunteer appointed City Parks Commissioner and as a teacher fails to fall within the statutory and regulatory requirements for a “community volunteer.”
Thus the volunteer city parks commissioner position is not a principal “profession,” “vocation,” or “occupation” as defined in the Elections Code. The use of such designation violates the Election Code, and therefore is subject to being deleted under Elections Code § 13313(b)(2).
In 2016, another Tait candidate – Mark Lopez in District 5 – was successfully sued over the same issue. Lopez was a member of the Anaheim Sister City Commission, and tried to use “Anaheim Commissioner/Advisor” as his ballot designation. A judge ruled against Lopez for the same reason.
Interestingly, the winner in District 5, now-Councilman Steve Faessel, also used city commissioner in his ballot title. The difference? Nobody challenged it in court. As Judge Moss noted in his ruling:
“Additionally, the fact that another candidate may have used the occupation “Businessman/Commissioner” in an unchallenged candidate statement has no bearing upon the court’s analysis of the issues presented by the petition.”
Anaheim Blog reached out to Castro’s attorney – former Garden Grove Councilman Mark Rosen – for more information on why the candidate statement passages were being challenged.
Rosen said Gaby’s claim to be Anaheim Hills’ representative on the Parks Commission was wrong, because she is an at-large appointee, representing the whole city.
As for striking the sentence about “special interests influence in City Hall,” Rosen explained that candidate statements are statements of the candidate’s qualifications for office, and can’t be used to attack others.
As his ruling shows, Judge Moss agreed with Rosen.
While it doesn’t determine the election outcome in District 6, it’s definitive a setback for Gaby. She has only been running for a few months, has no prior background or experience in politics, and is essentially running as the physical extension of Mayor Tom Tait’s political will. “City of Anaheim Commissioner” would have bestowed a semi-official sheen of authority and governmental experience. “Teacher” doesn’t do that.