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Superior Court Judge's ruling will create uncertainty and detrimental impacts to Mission Viejo

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To ensure the City can continue properly serving the residents of Mission Viejo, the City will appeal a ruling by an Orange County Superior Court judge that stipulates the removal of three City Council members from office. 

The initial ruling would remove three of five Council members from their posts just days before they are up for reelection. As a result, the City would no longer be able to meet quorum requirements for voting, which would jeopardize ongoing City projects and normal business. While the City intends on filing an appeal during the 30-day stay to prevent detrimental impacts to the community, the City's top priorities continue to be good governance and serving the residents of Mission Viejo. As a result, the City Council will vote on a number of time-sensitive and essential contracts and agreements at the September City Council meetings to enable the work of the City to continue.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by a resident opposed to elements in Mission Viejo's move to district-based voting - including how incumbents should be included in the election in November 2022. The stipulated judgement in that district-based voting case was approved twice by the court and consistently relied on in good faith by both the City and Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. However, the judge in the case reinterpreted sections of these previously approved stipulated judgements, which resulted in the recent action.

The City will continue to work to ensure it maintains its ability to govern properly on behalf of its residents.


Submitted by Matt Smart on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:06 pm


You’ll block this like you normally do when I make a comment that goes against your agenda… Nonetheless the city should have let the the citizens vote on the change.

Submitted by Ann Owens on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:11 pm


Maybe you should have contingency plans for when the city attorney gives bad advice. This is costing the city a half mill lion dollars in attorney fees, and the winning side has not even asked for their fees yet which I am sure will happen. What a waste of taxpayers dollars when all you had to do was run again after your two year term was up . By the way the judge said he signed off on the former case because he was not given complete information by the city. We need new blood on the city council that knows how to follow the law.

Submitted by Susie Scuderi on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:14 pm


The initial ruling was made based on partial facts provided by he city attorney. The judge ruled based on incorrect information. The City is an embarrassment to the nation and the council should be ashamed of themselves.

Submitted by Lori on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:26 pm


If 3 of the 5 members were on the board justly this would not be a problem. This article sounds like the Superior Court is to blame. The blame is on Corrupt council members who overstepped their authority plain and simple. I am not endorsing any political party, just wrong doing. They need to step down instead of trying to bulldoze their way through this. They have done enough damage to our city's reputation.

Submitted by Randolph baumanns on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:29 pm


I'm not so sure I agree And wonder if it is even ethical for the city to pursue fighting this in the courts. While I do not know much about the court decision in or what led to it I am concerned that court cases can be very expensive and the cost for the city to hire attorneys and to pursue this on taxpayer dollars has me concerned. I also dont like the idea of rushing projects and decisions to simply get something through post haste... doing the right thing is usually a simple matter and i wonder if were doing that instead of reactionary thinking to get what someone wants done in the last hour.

Submitted by Barbara Hosmer on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:33 pm


oh come on! you did it. you know you did it. the ballot we voted sad "two year term." it's 4 years out and who's still there? i rest MY case

and even worse, you were going to do it again because you thought you got away with it the last time. sorry. it didn't work.

could you please find a better use of our city's' money than to delay the inevitable? and to protect those who "screwed up." see, i'm being kind.

Submitted by George Upegui on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:38 pm


Can an interim appointment be made until the election or special election? I know this depends on the timing relative to November's election and may not be a dire issue but even the current Council members can remain on an interim basis prior to the the elections and swearing in of New members. Just curious!

Reference below

2.18.040 Council vacancies, interim appointments and special elections.
If a vacancy occurs on the city council, the remaining members of the council shall, by a majority of the council, do one or more of the following within thirty days from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy:

(a) Appoint an individual to serve the remaining unexpired term of the former incumbent;

(b) Appoint an individual to serve as an interim city council member. The term of an interim appointee shall be from the date of the appointment until a new member is elected to the council at a special election. If an appointment is made under this subsection, the council shall, at the same time it makes the interim appointment, call for a special election to fill the vacancy. An election held pursuant to this subsection shall be held on the next regularly established election date to be held throughout the city not less than ninety days from the call of the special election, unless such election date falls more than two hundred seventy days from the call of the special election, in which case the special election shall be held on the next regularly scheduled election date not less than ninety days from the call of the election;

(c) Leave the position vacant and immediately call for a special election to fill the vacancy. An election made under this subsection shall be held on the next regularly scheduled election date not less than ninety days from the call of the election. (Ord. 1114 § 1, 1992)

Submitted by Joseph McFaul on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:40 pm


The city council caused this entirely avoidable problem.
Their solution spend more of our money trying ot keep their jobs. This is wrong.

Submitted by Scott W Leighton on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:44 pm


It really is unfortunate that the city council put us in this position in the first place. Good thing elections are coming up so we can replace the incumbents with honest and transparent leaders.

Submitted by Beth Harding on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:47 pm


Why not appoint former Council members until the November election. I’m opposed to additional city funds being spent on an appeal. Enough has been spent defending the indefensible.

Submitted by mike on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:48 pm


Good, if we need to pull back on city projects for a period to remove the clowns on the city council, so be it! Remove all five and get locals who care about the city and not their pockets.

Submitted by Doug Harding on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 7:08 pm


The MV city council brought this court ruling on themselves & we the MV citizens are ashamed of them. Extending their terms without our approval is wrong & they deserve to be voted out in Nov.

Submitted by Lois w. Halbert on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 7:11 pm


We should have had a vote on Council members. Don't waste our money to appeal this. Sometimes you just have to put on your big boy/girl pants and move on with it.

Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 8:08 pm


The City of Mission Viejo and its council members should be ashamed of themselves. Writing this article to suggest that the good people of MV will suffer uncertainty and detrimental impacts if you don't decide on these projects now is ridiculous and insulting. Your agreements can wait! Do something right and honorable for a change Mission Viejo! We voted 2 yrs. Those 3 council members term was up years ago! I am so sick of reading about the corruption here.

Submitted by Mark on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 8:34 pm


The negative “spin” in your headline for this article says a lot, and is highly subjective. This e-newsletter normally tries to portray things positively. The council majority rigged the overstay. The court judgment is the natural and logical consequence.

Submitted by Jodee K. on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 8:37 pm


We need transparency on this council. There has been none. We need new, fresh ideas along with ethical standards. Buh-bye to the stale vision of this council. This resident says no appealing, a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Submitted by Terri Aprati on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 8:47 pm


First, the city should have a succession plan. Also, it was mentioned by Mr. Curley in court this past week that the city has no disaster plan. How can that be? I agree with Mike’s comment above. Bring in a former council member. Cathy Schlicht would be perfect. She is knowledgeable, honest and knows the city of Mission Viejo inside and out. How can we make this happen now?
Also, can we undo the purchase of SteinMart?

Submitted by Joe Holtzman on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 8:48 pm


It’s about time that this city recognizes that the citizens are not ignoramuses. The city has abused the citizens and that’s the fact. Now they have to suffer the consequences of their manipulations and maneuverings.

Submitted by Nancy Snyder on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 9:42 pm


I remember when Attys would put together their own Stipulated Judgments without the Court involved. One side would hold them, then they’d come into Court to enforce them, as if they were already an Order and the Court would find all kinds of ilii look illegalities in them and deny them an Order. Just because parties stipulate, it doesn’t mean it’s based on legalities. That’s what you have a Court for, because just think what people would try to get away with.

Submitted by Long time Citizen on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 6:19 am


First, we should fire whoever writes headlines like these for posts. We don't need spin. We need council members who are working for the people. The next election can't come soon enough.

Submitted by Norma McClellan on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 8:13 am


Believe the city will continue to work just fine for the very short time there will only be 2 council members. No need to appeal and waste city (our) money.

Submitted by Jennifer Scoggin on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 8:14 am


Seems the city thinks that stopping "sweetheart" leases to churches ( Stein Mart Bldg) is important business. Please stop insulting your residents by stating that this will have consequences. It will have consequences for the cabal that has been allowed to fester in this city for decades. Might want to reevaluate the City Attorney contract as well. Hourly rate seems pretty high for the bad advice he keeps giving you.

I agree its time for new blood on this council to prevent these foolish real estate deals that benefit family members of the council.

Submitted by Karen Crocker on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 8:25 am


I was not at court and not sure who was from MV; therefore, do not know all the facts. For one, I appreciate the City posting this article. We as residents should get as much information as possible to educate ourselves. The news always seems to sensationalize information to get folks to read their papers, whether it’s factual or not. Ask a journalist, they’ll tell you! Since the Canyon Dems group is behind this lawsuit, their information is onesided.Thankyou, City of Mission Viejo for putting this article up. T

Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 8:28 am


The fact that a judges decision was to call for justice to the lack of rights it’s citizens have been provided and this is the cities formal response, really says everything it needs to about Mission Viejo right now. Shame on you.

Do not rush into decisions so the citizens of the city can not make decisions they need. There are absolutely other solutions that can be made in the interim, you are clearly just too far self involved and out of touch with the needs of your citizens to figure them out. This is exactly how we ended up in this situation in the first place. Stop ignoring the rights of your citizens. Do better.

Oh and a big thank you to the citizen of MV who brought this to the judge and had to care about the rights of its citizens more than the city itself. Thank you for doing better when the city clearly isn’t interested.

Submitted by Sharon Cody on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 11:27 am


Ok so I will admit I have been so busy helping sick animals at the shelter, I have not been tuned into the issue of council extending their terms. It just seems to me that the election is just around the corner. I have made the time to interview candidates in my district so that I could be well informed before I vote. With districts now established, candidates will not have to raise as much money and it is actually possible for them to get out and walk their district or at least part of it. I hope residents will take the time to get to know the candidates for city council this year. Mission Viejo is such a beautiful city and that is not an accident. Staff and council work hard to keep our city in great shape. Residents have much to be thankful for.

Submitted by Randy Gish on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 11:34 am


In what world do you not have your name on the ballot after serving the elected full two years. I voted some of you in for the first two years. My ballot did not say for four years! You took my vote away, plain and simple. There was no box to check one way or another and you believed that was right? Come on now. Your political career just took a major hit.

Submitted by ASR on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 11:48 am


I'm frustrated and disappointed in this City Council. In particular, the Mayor, whom I've seen out in public engaging residents. I'd hoped that, as a woman, she'd lead the City in a positive direction bringing a new perspective to what I've always felt was a bad boys club. Sadly, the lumps just keep coming. Time for change!

Submitted by Cathy Schlicht on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 12:00 pm


This press release is nothing more than a self-serving narrative, attempting to direct the public attention away from the facts of the case and not addressing the issue.

To provide transparency and to give the the residents the opportunity to come to their own conclusions or opinions, the City needs to provide a link to all of the legal documents.

It took years, but finally, the truth has been exposed. The actions of the members of the Mission Viejo City Council were rooted in lies and they deserve to be voted out of office in November.

In reading the council member responses in the various news outlets, they are using partisan politics as their excuse for being removed from office, pretending to be the victims.

I am a Conservative and I fully supported the lawsuits. These 5 council members misapplied the Stipulated Judgment, misled the public and have now misjudged public reaction to their unlawful activities to maintain their seats.

Additionally, the Judge noted that the city attorney withheld material facts from the Court.

If the Council Members want to play the victim game, they should declare that they fell victim to poor legal advice and sue the city attorney for malpractice.

But they hid behind the city attorney because he was keeping them in office, and protected them against concerns raised by a "handful of individuals." The city attorney was the council's attack dog. Public speakers who questioned or challenged or criticized the actions or secrecy of the council were ridiculed or marginalized by the city attorney.

The public speakers, "a handful of individuals", were right and justified in raising their voices: The Court has ruled against the defendants.

The Council changed the rules after the voters voted. Their five-year charade of gaming the system for their self-serving agendas have been stopped. It was appalling what they did and have done to our City just to remain in their seats, and to deny the voters their right to vote.

After we were told repeatedly that the Council was following Judge Schwarms' Order, Judge Schwarm wrote that the purpose of the Stipulated Judgment was to implement remedies to address the CVRA violation, not to extend their terms of office. "Therefore, the court finds that Defendant - Ed Sachs, Defendant - Wendy Bucknum, and Defendant Greg Raths are not lawfully holding their offices."

You cannot get any clearer of a message than that.

Now the council will consider going "dark" for the month of October, protecting themselves from further public comments, a well as eliminating the public podium from their challengers, taking away their opportunity to introduce themselves to the public.

The remaining council members and defrocked council members will be bringing in more dirty politics coming up in the next 60 days. They will have lots of out of town money to hire their political campaign consultants to flood the mail with slick campaign flyers, and third party PACS trashing the grassroots candidates who are challenging them for their seats.

This council has broken the principles of democracy and deserve to be voted out of office.

An appeal to the higher court is not going to change the results. As the Judge stated in his Order: "Even assuming that the Stipulated Judgment and the Amended Stipulated Judgment could be interpreted to extend Defendants' prescribed two-year terms to four years, Defendants have not shown that such extension would be legal." This is just another delay tactic to keep the council majority in control.

There is irony in the fact that if Trish Kelley and Brian Goodell wanted to vote NO on continuing the legal battle, defrocked council members Sachs, Bucknum and Raths represent the majority and can vote for the next 30 days to hire outside counsel to protect their seats.

So basically, the positions of Kelley and Goodell are diluted by the UNLAWFUL council majority represented by Sachs, Raths and Bucknum.

Submitted by Penny Lehrer on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 1:20 pm


You aren’t above the law. You changed the rules without citizens input for yourselves. You aren’t doing this for the city. Stop wasting our time and money fighting the judge’s decision. Be an adult and accept the loss.

Submitted by Jeff Hanks on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 5:01 pm


I agree with Karen Crocker and am grateful to see this issue for the first time. I too will be looking at the facts of this case now that I have been made aware of it by the weekly newsletter.

I do NOT want to spend another dime on legal fees for this issue when we have an election in a couple of months. Lets take care of this by
1 - what George Upegui about the plan to replace council members or recruit previous members
2 - NOT rushing new contacts through a council who is currently under scrutiny
3 - electing the next set of council members.

Submitted by Steve on Fri, 09/02/2022 - 8:53 pm


We are 18 year residents of MV. I’m a re-retired engineer. Not exactly an uneducated dirt farmer like my Grand Father. Although, he was the smartest person I ever knew.
His philosophy was hard work and find the best tool for the job. He had a stroke behind a team of horses plowing a field. He hated politics. But he made sure that those who represented him had his interest at heart.
I’ve seen our city politics web and flow. Good leaders and those that I didn’t agree with, but for the most part for the good of the city.
From what I see we, have a very diverse integrated ethnic population.
There may be some isolated areas that are under represented. But, why do we have to redistrict the entire the city for general elections? Can’t we find a simpler solution? Outside lawyers are preying on our city.
Occam’s Razor says the simplest solution is almost always the best. Can’t we find a simple solution. Get the state and lawyers out of our city.
As far as incumbent limits. The city charter should dictate. Let the lawyers figure it out.
Sorry for my out burst!

Submitted by Edan Prabhu on Sat, 09/03/2022 - 6:04 pm


Do not waste my money appealing rulings that throw you out. Your manipulations were flushed out. Just leave. Democracy works slowly but curves towards fairness and justice. Just leave. Quit. Resign now.

Submitted by Mark on Sat, 09/03/2022 - 6:42 pm


If they are running for City Council again, maybe they can tell me WHY that damn train blows its horn at five thirty EVERY morning! I moved here because there are no railroad crossings! Then, WHY, does that damn train blow its horn?!!!

Submitted by Tom Moore on Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:29 am


With great disappointment in the situation this City finds itself and without a widely distributed written statement justifying term extensions from each of the sitting council members it will be difficult for me to understand where support for any of these five running for public office by vote or appointment will come from in the future.
Regarding the interim appeal process, to avoid future litigation the three council members (Raths, Sachs, and Bucknum) should sit on all ongoing council meetings without a vote. This would allow them to stay current on issues before the City if the Court sides with the City.
This would also preclude these three council members from voting on City interests outside council chambers where they represent City interests.
This would result in a lack of a quorum before the Council I believe which would mean no rulings through the appeal process . That is the intent.

Submitted by Carter Slauson on Mon, 09/12/2022 - 4:47 pm


The entire city council should be thrown out in disgrace. The USA is not an authoritarian country (yet). I certainly will not vote for any of these people ever again and I'm talking to you Greg Raths and Brian Goodell. You guys should have known better. Reminds of the Bell City council and we know how that went.

Submitted by Cathy Schlicht on Tue, 09/20/2022 - 9:44 am


Instead of finding a solution or preparing a contingency plan for a lack of a quorum, the City Manager is just going to close down city hall - shutting out the remaining city council members, who are his bosses , as well as slam the door in the face of the residents.

All this because the council followed the direction of their Director of City Council and took away the right of the voters to vote.

Submitted by George Upegui on Tue, 06/27/2023 - 1:37 pm


Please note that the comment posted with my name attached is not from me.

Oh come.on now
oh come on! you did it. you know you did it. the ballot we voted sad "two year term." it's 4 years out and who's still there? i rest MY case

and even worse, you were going to do it again because you thought you got away with it the last time. sorry. it didn't work.

could you please find a better use of our city's' money than to delay the inevitable? and to protect those who "screwed up." see, i'm being kind.

Just to be clear I would never post anything so absurd and this verbiage and negative comment is not mine. I am not sure who placed this comment with my name referenced but it's a misrepresentation of any thoughts I may have regarding Mission Viejo and our City's governing body. As a former municipal administrator I understand that things happen relative to quorum, elections, voting regulations and changes in timeliness based on legislation or other factors. Our City leaders will never make all citizens in our community happy, whether based on decisions or stances on specific issues but I am appalled that someone would post this under my name.

I have worked with many City leaders during my 38 years in Public Service and applaud their efforts knowing sometimes they may fall short on public opinion. Please remove my original posting as I detest the negative phrasing and judgemental position.
Thank you

Submitted by George Upegui on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 6:38 pm

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