Kevin Valine

Council to meet again over botched ballot measure

The City Council is expected to meet behind closed doors for the second time to talk about how a Modesto City Schools ballot measure was not included in sample and absentee ballots sent to all of the voters.

Measure F asks voters in Tuesday’s election whether the city should change its charter so Modesto City Schools can elect its board members by district. Modesto City Schools asked the city to put the measure on the ballot.

The resolution passed by the council states that a majority of the voters in the Modesto City Schools district must approve this change for it to take effect. The district’s voters include those in the city as well as roughly 24,000 in surrounding communities. But voters outside of the city are not included in the Measure F election.

City Manager Jim Holgersson has said the Measure F documentation was changed in the city clerk’s office, limiting the election to city voters. He also has said the change may have been made in consultation with Stanislaus County election officials.

City Clerk Stephanie Lopez and county Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan have declined to comment. Lundrigan’s office conducts Modesto’s elections.

Besides getting to the bottom of what happened, another issue is who will pay for the botched election. Modesto City Schools agreed to reimburse Modesto for its costs associated with putting Measure F on the ballot. Lundrigan declined to estimate what those costs could be.

Attorneys for Modesto City Schools have filed paperwork in Stanislaus Superior Court asking a judge to issue what is called a writ of mandate to prevent the Measure F ballots from being counted and putting the measure on the June ballot.

The council met last week to discuss Lopez and her office and to authorize attorneys to file legal papers in support of Modesto City Schools’ request for a writ of mandate. The county also supports the request. A judge has not yet issued a ruling.

The council is expected to meet Wednesday and in closed session because this is a personnel matter. But state law allows Lopez to ask that the meeting be held in public. Whether or not that happens, it would be in the city’s best interest to release as much information as it can about what went wrong. Elections are important and the public needs to trust their public officials.