City Attorney Dennis Herrera Appeals Ruling, Fights to Keep Michela Alioto-Pier off Ballot

Thumbnail image for rsz_michela_alioto_pier_luke_thomas.jpg
Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal
It's not over yet, Michela...
City Attorney Dennis Herrera will this morning file an appeal of Judge Peter Busch's ruling that Michela Alioto-Pier is eligible to run again for District 2 supervisor.

Herrera told KTVU-TV he was compelled to make this move on behalf of "the will of the voters" -- though Alioto-Pier and her camp have never shied away from alleging that Herrera's ongoing legal efforts to keep her from running also adhere to the will of the city's progressive polticos.

Here are the details of the case, in brief:

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. 

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.

Today, Herrera told KTVU-TV that he was duty-bound to file an appeal as Busch's ruling "created a two-tiered system" where a twice-elected supervisor can serve eight years, but an appointed one can serve up to 12.

Dennis Herrera by Jim Herd.jpg
Jim Herd
Dennis Herrera claims the 'will of the voters' compels him to keep Michela Alioto-Pier off the ballot
Alioto-Pier characterized the move as wasteful; Busch ruled in her favor following a Judge Wapner-like 15-minute recess, and, should Alioto-Pier beat the city, taxpayers are on the hook for her roughly $50,000 (and growing) legal bill.

Dragging the case out also raises Alioto-Pier's ire by continuing her term in political purgatory. It's hard to raise funds when the city says you aren't a candidate -- and the supervisor is facing her first contested local race. While D2 challengers Janet Reilly and Mark Farrell have been applying their campaign funds toward, well, campaigning, Alioto-Pier's campaign money is being sent to Jim Sutton's law firm to fight this suit.

"My supporters shouldn't have to pay for Dennis Herrera's mistake," Alioto-Pier told SF Weekly following last week's ruling.

Of course, if she's victorious and the city picks up the tab, then everyone pays. "Yes," Alioto-Pier acknowledged. "Well, Dennis Herrera should think about these things before he files a faulty case."

Apparently, he has.

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