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Mike Alvarez resigned from his seat on the Orange City Council on Tuesday, after a months-long legal battle and a judge’s ruling that the termed-out officeholder wasn’t even eligible to run for a third term in the first place.
Alvarez had 10 days to appeal the February ruling by Orange County Superior Court Judge Nathan Scott, which said Alvarez would otherwise have to vacate his seat under the city’s election policy.
“Out of respect for the rule of law, the City of Orange and its residents, I have chosen not to appeal,” Alvarez said in a Tuesday statement.
Scott’s ruling comes after a lawsuit by two residents challenging the validity of his third term: Unsuccessful November council candidate and opponent John Russo, and Michael McIsaac, who has been identified as a resident, but declined interview requests by Voice of OC.
The two plaintiffs filed separate challenges in Orange County Superior Court but both cases were put on the same track due to their similar legal arguments.
“We’re happy that the judge reached the right result,” said lead attorney Gary Winuk, representing McIsaac. “The City of Orange has been vindicated.”
“I’m very excited the law was upheld … my goal in filing this legal challenge was to protect the voters of Orange,” said Russo in a Tuesday phone interview.
He continued: “What this means now is our city council has to fill this vacant seat, but again I’m very excited that not only myself and other residents prevailed in the court of law, we also had a very big win for the voters of Orange in upholding the laws they voted in.”
“I think it is important for Orange residents to know that prior to my submitting my papers to run, every effort was made by both my attorney and the City’s attorney to determine the legal issues involved,” Alvarez said in his statement.
Last year, Alvarez, who was limited by city law to two consecutive terms he already served on the council, appeared on the city’s official list of candidates for the seat in November anyway.
The incumbent, so to speak, won reelection with a majority of the vote.
Alvarez argued that the city’s recent switch from citywide elections to district elections made his seat an entirely new one — not subject to the city’s two-term limit.
All the while, City Hall remained silent on the issue.
Then came the lawsuits.
Russo and another named resident Michael McIsaac, who has declined to speak with Voice of OC, both mounted legal challenges to Alvarez’s legitimacy as a third-term officeholder, citing what they argued were questionable legal circumstances around his win.
Ultimately, Scott ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on Feb. 4, arguing Alvarez wasn’t eligible to run. At a hearing on Feb. 24, Scott said Alvarez had 10 days to file an appeal to the ruling or he would be forced to vacate his seat.
Alvarez, ultimately, chose to resign.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @photherecord.