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Friday, May 6, 2011

Council OK's Ballot Initiative Against City Attorney

Voters Will Decide In November
Attorney Biddle Fails Attempt To Block Voter Referendum

The ongoing battle between Emeryville city councilman Ken Bukowski and city attorney Mike Biddle over the future of the attorney's position as city employee entered the electorate signature gathering phase Tuesday night as the city council blocked Mr Biddle's attempt to thwart a November ballot initiative on the issue.   The council refused a recommendation by Mr Biddle to stop councilman Bukowski's ballot initiative to subcontract out the city attorney position at City Hall, after hearing testimony from attorney Stuart Flashman, representing Mr Bukowski.

Mr Biddle implored the council to not let the voters decide about whether we keep a city attorney stating the ballot initiative, slated for November, is illegal.  The city attorney maintains the issue must not appear before the voters because it is an "administrative rather than a legislative item".  He quoted the California constitution to support his decision.
Mr Flashman told the council they don't need to rule on the legality of the proposed ballot initiative but they should first allow the voters to have their say noting that courts are generally reluctant to decide before the people do.  "Courts don't like pre-election changes" he said.

Mr Flashman noted there is no case law to cite in this case and it is unknown as to the legality of it.  He warned the council that if they were to move to stop the ballot initiative before the voters get a chance to have their say, a legal challenge will cost the city "at least the $15,000 the ballot initiative is slated to cost", likely more he intoned.

Both Stuart Flashman and mayor Nora Davis chastised the city attorney for his involvement in trying to quell the voter initiative, effectively saving his own job, "I'm a little puzzled and concerned that the city attorney is involved in this" Mr Flashman said adding it's a "conflict of interest".  Council member Davis told the city attorney, "We need to get some distance here because of the allegations of conflict of interest".

After some discussion, no council member offered up a motion to satisfy Mr Biddle so Ms Davis turned to the city attorney, "Well Mr Biddle it looks like we're going to proceed ahead".  The signature drive will begin in a few days according to council member Bukowski.


  1. Why don't you include a link to the meeting video? Here is is watch it for yourselves before you come to a conclusion:

  2. The reader is correct; every council meeting is available on video at the city's website. Usually the videos are available a couple of days after the meeting.