Newport council candidate can’t take seat this year if he wins, city clerk says

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-herdman-20160715-story.html

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Newport Beach City Council candidate Jeff Herdman’s position on a city advisory board means he is not eligible to serve on the council until a year after he leaves that board, according to a letter from City Clerk Leilani Brown.

Herdman, a longtime Balboa Island resident, is bidding in the November election to replace termed-out Councilman Ed Selich representing District 5, which includes the island, Newport Center and a portion of Big Canyon. Also vying for the seat are community activist and businessman Mike Glenn and local businessman Lee Lowrey.

The winner is scheduled to take over the seat in December.

If Herdman wins, Brown said, he would be ineligible to serve at that time.

“Based upon my review of the city charter and in consultation with outside counsel, I have determined that city charter Section 710 prevents Mr. Herdman from occupying the position of city councilmember for a period of one year after his service on the Civil Service Board is complete,” Brown wrote in the letter circulated Thursday.

Herdman has been on the board since he was appointed in 2014. His term expires in June 2018.

The letter came roughly two weeks after Balboa Island resident Bob McCaffrey claimed in a complaint to the city that Herdman is ineligible to run in the November election because of his position on the Civil Service Board, which advises the City Council on personnel matters and conducts appeal hearings for city employees in disciplinary matters.

McCaffrey said he intends to support Lowrey in November.

Herdman said Friday that he does not intend to suspend his council campaign and is working with a lawyer to take “appropriate steps to put the matter to rest.”

He also said he doesn’t think he needs to leave the Civil Service Board before the election.

“I’m too far along in my campaign to let this clear form of harassment stop me,” he said. “I have a constitutional right to run for City Council, and the voters in the city of Newport Beach also have a right to vote for who they think is the most qualified candidate. It is just sad that the McCaffrey machine here in the city is trying to take my right, as well as the voters’, away.”

McCaffrey is chairman of a political action committee known as Residents for Reform, which supported “Team Newport,” a slate of council candidates consisting of Diane Dixon, Kevin Muldoon, Scott Peotter and Marshall “Duffy” Duffield who swept the four available seats in the 2014 election and now constitute the council majority. McCaffrey donated funds to the slate.

Herdman has been critical of Peotter, Muldoon and Duffield since they were elected.

This isn’t the first time McCaffrey and Herdman have bumped heads.

Herdman has suggested in published letters to the Daily Pilot that the city request that the California Fair Political Practices Commission conduct a full audit of all the candidates in the 2014 election to examine their “independent expenditures, slate mail committees and other expenditures spent to influence the election.”

In April 2015, Herdman sent a letter to the FPPC alleging that a campaign contribution Peotter received violated the Political Reform Act and city code. Peotter denied wrongdoing.

Last November, McCaffrey filed a complaint with the FPPC against Herdman, alleging that he failed to submit a mandatory form before soliciting and accepting donations for his council campaign. Herdman denied violating the law.

McCaffrey said Friday that he filed the new complaint because he believes everyone should follow the rules.

“He can do whatever he wants to do,” McCaffrey said of Herdman continuing his campaign. “Although it seems like the honorable thing to do would be to give the money back to his benefactors.”

Section 710 of the city charter states that no Civil Service Board member, “while a member of the board, or for a period of one year after [the person] has ceased for any reason to be a member, shall occupy or be eligible for appointment to any salaried office or employment in service of the city.”

The provision aims to curb conflicts of interest when ruling on employee matters.

A City Council member receives $1,274 in monthly compensation; the mayor receives $1,808, according to city documents. But whether the money is a salary or a stipend is a point of contention.

McCaffrey said in his complaint that he believes a council position is a salaried office and that the charter means Herdman cannot serve.

Herdman has said the money paid to council members is reimbursement for expenses incurred.

“I’m sure that when the voters approved the city charter amendments two elections ago, it was never their intent to prevent any individual from running for office who is a member of the Civil Service Board,” Herdman said. “They did not create a de facto qualification or a hidden qualification stuck in unrelated charter provisions that would prevent someone from running for City Council. That would simply be unconstitutional.”

Hannah Fry, [email protected]

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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