Huntington Beach Voters to Decide Fate of 2 Elected City Positions


HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif.—Voters will decide in November to either keep electing their city clerk and treasurer or if they should be appointed by their city councilors, among other ballot measures that would change the city’s charter.

This comes after the city council voted June 21 to put such charter amendments on the general election ballot.

Following weeks of disapproval from residents about the city council’s interest in making similar changes to the elected city attorney’s position, the council chose not to go forward with changing it to appointed or setting term limits.

City Councilors formed a special committee to revise the city’s charter, which proposed 18 new amendments on June 7.

Two weeks later, the city council voted 6 to 0—with Councilman Erik Peterson absent—to create four ballot measures:

  1. Focus on language and technical changes in the charter, including changing the term “Mayor Pro Tempore” to “Vice Mayor,” inserting gender-neutral terms, and making it easier for the council to cancel a scheduled meeting if necessary.
  2. Remove the requirement that city attorneys must attend an American Bar Association-accredited law school and require the city clerk and treasurer to meet the minimum qualifications at the time they’re filing for candidacy or appointment.
  3. Change the city clerk and treasurer from elected to appointed positions.
  4. Give the city council control over all litigation and legal business, who may consult with outside attorneys when there is a conflict of interest involving the elected city attorney.

The next steps are for city staff to prepare and return final written ballot measures for council consideration at the July 5 meeting.

Epoch Times Photo
Members of the public attend a Huntington Beach City Council meeting in Huntington Beach, Calif., on June 7, 2022. (Julianne Foster/The Epoch Times)

Several residents in the public comment portion of the meeting claimed the council thought voters weren’t wise enough to elect the best officials.

But Councilman Dan Kalmick said, “I think our residents are not stupid.”

He said the city attorney as a department head should be appointed just as other roles are in the city, such as the Chief of Police.

“The city attorney is not the independent watchdog of the city council” because they can’t act without following council rules.

Councilwoman Kim Carr said the issues with elected positions were becoming politicized, and Councilwoman Natalie Moser agreed.

“It is a technical position,” Moser told the council, and “we want to make sure we aren’t acting based on a couple people, but rather [choosing] from a pool of good candidates” they consider are in the public’s best interest.

In the end, the council compromised that they didn’t care whether the city attorney’s position was elected or appointed, just that the position was filled with the ideal professional individual. They also agreed term limits weren’t necessary.

“You’re free to advise and we’re free to accept or reject your advice,” Mayor Pro Tem Mike Posey said to City Attorney Michael Gates at the meeting.

Several public commenters opposed ballot measure 4, saying they didn’t want the council to consult other attorneys that voters didn’t elect.

In response, Mayor Barabara Delgleize said, “At the end of the day … asking for a second opinion doesn’t take … authority away from the city attorney.” Delgleize referenced how normal client-attorney relationships allow clients the ability to consult a second attorney.

According to the council, because they already hire outside attorneys, this ballot wouldn’t be much of a change, it would only clarify that the council is in control of all legal business in the city.

“We hire outside legal all the time,” Councilwoman Carr said, complimenting Gates for his service, but adding that it is impossible for the city to solve all legal issues in-house.

Julianne Foster

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