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REMOVAL OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS

Authority for Review

Grand Jury jurisdiction provided by Penal Code Section 925.

Background

Complaint received by Grand Jury in regards to Supervisor Stephanie Moreno holding a job outside the county while continuing to serve as a board member. Complainant asks "is there anything we or you can do to force a resignation?"

Method of Review

Consultation with Deputy Attorney General
Consultation with Amador County District Attorney
Review of documents including newspaper articles and legal authorities
Review of applicable California Codes (see Appendix)

Findings

There are three methods available for removal of a local official. The first is the public process of filing for a recall election. The second is through an accusation filed by the Grand Jury (Government Code Section 3060.) The third is a quo warranto lawsuit brought through the assistance or permission of the Attorney General (Code of Civil Procedure Section 803.) The following review is limited to the second two options which are lesser known.

The Grand Jury is given the power to investigate wilful misconduct by local officials. Such an investigation may lead to the filing of an accusation for removal of the official from office if the Grand Jury finds the official has committed wilful misconduct in office.

Wilful misconduct in office includes any wilful malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance. Malfeasance is defined as doing an act which the official should not do. Misfeasance is defined as improperly doing an act which the official is otherwise authorized to do. Nonfeasance is defined as the failure to do an act which an official should do.

A quo warranto lawsuit is one brought by the State Attorney General whenever there is reason to believe a public official is unlawfully holding office. A citizen may also file the action if given permission by the Attorney General.

The quo warranto lawsuit may be brought against any person who unlawfully holds, exercises, intrudes into or usurps any public office.

In late February, Amador County Supervisor Stephanie Moreno was hired as a full-time senior administrative analyst in the Monterey County Auditor's Department. Moreno began working in that position while continuing to serve on the Board of Supervisors.

As of the date of the complaint, Moreno had not announced a resignation date. Subsequently, Moreno announced that she would resign her position effective May 31, 1997.

Conclusions

Because of the limited time span between the receipt of the complaint and the date of Moreno's resignation, the Grand Jury was unable to complete a formal investigation to determine if the facts of the case warranted the filing of an accusation or a quo warranto suit.

Without further facts, the allegations in the complaint are insufficient to support an accusation or quo warranto suit.

Although there does not appear to be any means to force the resignation of a public official, the law provides citizens with at least three methods of seeking removal of public officials as outlined above.

Recommendations

None

Response Required

None
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