Courtroom drama: Starr successfully challenges Oxnard Mayor Flynn ballot statement

By George Miller

Oxnard special recall election (May 1) Mayoral challenger candidate Aaron Starr was in court again today, this time to challenge the veracity of Incumbent Mayor Tim Flynn’s ballot statement. Flynn had emphasized in his submitted statement that the city now has a “clean” audit and a balanced budget for the first time in years. But Starr, a high level financial executive, knows that there are still audit findings, so, strictly speaking, it’s not a clean audit. But it seems much improved over the dark days earlier in the Flynn era. Starr also challenged the balanced budget, via his attorney Chad Morgan, who is also handling Starr’s Measure M injunction challenge and a dispute over whether utilities infrastructure fees were handled according to Prop 218. Starr says no and so do legal precedents, he asserts. The City has counter-arguments they say proving that the city must provide safe services and that Measure M jeopardizes this.

Starr vs City Clerk/Flynn players crafting revised Flynn ballot statement outside of the courtroom after 3-7-18 hearing at Ventura County Superior Court. (L-R): Barbara Whatley- Oxnard outside Counsel, Alicia Percell, wife of plaintiff Aaron Star, Chad Morgan- Starr’s attorney, Mayor Tim Flynn, Richard Francis- Flynn’s attorney. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Flynn has replied that his statement, “the city has its first balanced budget and ‘clean’ audit in decades”, is both truthful and accurate. He pleaded that there “are many tricks” to make a balanced budget, that it is impossible to know if his statement is wrong and that the statement was made in good faith. He cites improvements in records and a newspaper article (not this publication) as evidence of a “clean” audit, while Starr uses a more technically correct accounting definition of what constitutes a “clean” audit (Starr is a high-level financial executive with a finance education).

Today’s hearing

After waiting their turn while an interesting variety of legal disputes were first heard by Judge Vincent O’Neil, Jr., a no nonsense judicial veteran, Flynn’s and Starr’s team came forward when called. Starr was not actually present, delegating the task to Attorney Chad Morgan and wife Alicia Percell, who is his partner in  matters political and civic.

Morgan was up first and quickly made his points that there was no clean audit and no balanced budget and cited the law to prove it, not relying upon newspaper articles. He informed us that there were audit “findings,” which are black marks meaning that it isn’t clean. No one is really sure when Oxnard last had a clean audit, since it has been established that the previous auditor was letting some problems get by undetected and/or unreported. We base this statement on results of the operational and financial audits performed during the City Manager Nyhoff administration.

Oxnard outside Counsel Barbara Whatley was also there to represent the city’s interests, since the City Clerk is the nominal defendant in the case.  Whatley later confirmed to me that the City has no dog in this fight and she was only there because Starr had to name the City Clerk Michelle Ascencion as the defendant, because clerk handles the ballot statements submitted. Ascencion wasn’t present either. Flynn is actually shown as a correspondent in the complaint (click the previous story link  below to see court documents).

Flynn was represented by the well-known attorney Richard Francis, co-author and defender of the SOAR anti-development initiative. He quickly suggested an amicable compromise, A few ideas were discussed, until the judge told them to go resolve it outside the courtroom and report back to him.

Outside the Courtroom

So, both sides’ legal entourages filed out of the courtroom and first caucused as a group (see photo above) and then separately to fine-tune their points. I talked to each faction and it looked like they could come to an agreement. I asked each party to send us the final language, but hadn’t received it as of press time.

Fortunately, on the way home from the courthouse, I stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up some goodies and who did I run into but Mayor Flynn, grabbing something before he got back to school. He told me that the ballot statement will say something to the effect that Oxnard’s finances are in the best shape in years. When I asked him about the “clean audit” claim, he said that Richard advised him not to fall on his sword over that one. But the audit sure is a lot cleaner than it was a couple of years ago.

In the final analysis of this chapter, Starr now has bragging rights to say that he forced Flynn to alter unsupportable claims on his ballot statement, while Flynn can accurately say that Oxnard’s finances are in better shape.

 

Was a court hearing even necessary?

I asked Mayor Flynn if Starr had contacted him before initiating legal action and was this hearing necessary. He said he had not been contacted first and felt he could have come to some accommodation informally. But, Alicia Percell told us that once the ballot statement is submitted, the only way to change it is via legal action- and hee is the petition: 2018_02_22 Petition for Writ of Mandate . She sent me the following note:

George,

This point was made in our original filing, the petition for writ of mandate (attached).  See the following on page 4:”The Elections Code does not permit any changes or modification to candidate statements except by order of the court. (Ibid; Elec. Code § 13307, subd. (a)(3))”

There was no option to negotiate with Tim about it because even he could not change his own statement after the filing deadline.  His statement was not made available to us by the city clerk until after the filing deadline.

-Alicia

Monica Terrones of Ventura County Election Division also stated to us that it was the only remedy. She reinforced that Oxnard is handling this special election, not the County.

 

Oxnard: Aaron Starr sues Mayor Flynn for ballot statement violations: hearing Wednesday

Oxnard: Aaron Starr sues Mayor Flynn for ballot statement violations: hearing Wednesday

By George Miller Oxnard Mayoral candidate Aaron Starr accused Mayor Flynn of making false claims in Flynn’s ballot statement for the rapidly approaching special recall election. Flynn is one of the officials on the recall measure. Starr is one of 5 challengers.              Specifically, Starr asserts that Flynn’s claims on […]

Oxnard Special Recall Election Candidate Debate- 3-15-18

Oxnard Special Recall Election Candidate Debate- 3-15-18

Event Announcement BOXING THEME DEBATE- RECEPTION- CANDIDATE BOOTHS- ELECTION INTEGRITY- LOCAL DIGNITARIES- VIDEO ARCADE-FOOD-DRINK- 5:00- 9:00pm March 15, 2018 An unprecedented stand-alone Oxnard Council recall election will be held on 5-1-18. We are “cueing” you in that the ad-hoc “Oxnard Revelations Alliance” (ORA) is sponsoring and running an all-comers candidates’ debate on March 15, 2018, 5 pm […]

 

George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.


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