Michela Alioto-Pier Files to Run for Supe Again. Will Suit Against City Be Next?

Are Michela Alioto-Pier and the city on a collision course?
City's Department of Elections does not consider District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier eligible to defend her seat

Two years after City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed an opinion stating Michela Alioto-Pier was ineligible to run for re-election, the District 2 supe took out papers this morning to do just that. There's a simple difference of opinion here: Herrera thinks Alioto-Pier is termed out and she thinks she isn't. A judge may have to decide the matter. "I am not ruling out a lawsuit -- absolutely not," she told SF Weekly last year.

While Alioto-Pier would probably much rather concentrate on fund-raising and politicking in what figures to be a contested race against Janet Reilly, a lawsuit became a much more realistic possibility just moments ago. John Arntz, the head of the city's Department of Elections, told SF Weekly he will follow Herrera's opinion and block Alioto-Pier from appearing on the ballot. "At this point, she is not considered eligible for ballot in November," he said.

You can read Arntz' terse letter to Alioto-Pier here: SupAlioto-PierLtr.pdf

Alioto-Pier is legally represented by the influential political svengali Jim Sutton -- and in parsing Herrera's ruling he may have some great material to work with.

The crux of Herrera's opinion is that, per the city charter, public servants "appointed ... to complete in excess of two years of a four-year term" will be deemed to have served a full term. However, Alioto-Pier points out that she was in 2004 appointed by Gavin Newsom to fill his vacant seat, won a special election for a two-year term 10 months later, and then won re-election to a four-year term in 2007. By her calculation, she's in the tail end of her first four-year term. 

What's more, following the passage of Proposition C in 2001, it is now impossible to hold an appointed position for "in excess of two years." City law now mandates that appointees must run in special elections between 120 and 365 days of their appointment -- as Alioto-Pier successfully did. 

Dennis Herrera by Jim Herd.jpg
Jim Herd
Dennis Herrera's term limits opinion has been a menace for Michela Alioto-Pier
It also warrants mentioning that, when it comes to determining term limits, two-year terms and four-year terms are not synonymous. The difference between the two led to a Herrera ruling that eventually allowed Tom Ammiano to serve 14 years on the Board of Supervisors

Calls to Herrera's office led to his spokesmen referring to the city attorney's rulings regarding Alioto-Pier and Ammiano's term-limit situations (just as it has every time we've queried about this). You can read both of those opinions online, here and here, respectively.

Alioto-Pier's camp has one more bullet in its bandoleer it hopes will stave off the possibility of a lawsuit. Eight months after Herrera's ruling regarding Alioto-Pier's eligibility, a 2008 charter amendment would have given voters the chance to clear up this very question.

Proposition F called for moving all odd-year elections into even years as a cost-saver. But it also would have established "limits of two successive 4-year terms for the Mayor and members of the Board of Supervisors. Any partial term of two or more years counts as a full term." That applies to elected terms, appointed terms, terms decided by pulling Excalibur out of a stone, whatever.

Prop. F lost, garnering only 45 percent of the vote.

Alioto-Pier was in rules committee today and has not yet returned SF Weekly's calls.

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Photo of Dennis Herrera   |   Jim Herd

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