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Judge: SJ supervisors term limit ballot wording ‘misleading’

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POSTED September 5, 2012 1:13 a.m.

A judge has branded ballot language seeking to extend the term limits of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors as “misleading”.

San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Michael Coughlan on Tuesday agreed with a legal challenge filed by former Assemblyman Dean Andal that the wording makes it seem that Measure D on the Nov. 6 ballot is seeking to impose term limits for the first time on the Board of Supervisors as well as the San Joaquin County Board of Education.

Voters in 1998 limited members elected to the two boards to two four-year terms. Four of the supervisors who will be termed out starting in 2014 voted to place language on the ballot to change the maximum number of four year terms from two to three.

Since the wording of the measure glosses over the fact term limits are in place, Coughlin said the supervisors must change the wording on the ballot to make the intent clear. He declined, however, to require that the supervisors use wording suggested by Andal.

Andal also believes the language is so ambiguous  that the four member supervisors who voted to put the measure on the ballot - Steve Bestolarides, Larry Rushstaller, Carlos Villapudua, and Ken Vogel - will actually be able to serve five terms instead of three four-year terms should it pass. That’s because all three are already in their second term and the ballot measure makes no reference to whether that applies to them.

 The language the supervisors adopted and the judge ordered changed reads, “Shall an ordinance be adopted that limits the number of terms a person may serve on the Board of Supervisors and Board of Education to three (3) terms of office during his or her lifetime?”

Andal had wanted the language changed to read, “Shall an ordinance be adopted retroactively that extends the number of terms a person may serve on the Board of Supervisors and County Board of Education from the current two (2) terms to thee (3) terms during his or her lifetime?”

The measure is costing county taxpayers $100,000 to appear on the November ballot.

Leroy Ornellas - the lone supervisor who opposed changing the term limits adopted by voters in 1998 - is leaving office this December after serving the voter mandated maximum of two four-year terms.

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