Tim Shaw will continue to serve on the Orange County Board of Education amid a lawsuit against the board arguing that he was illegally appointed to his seat.
A tentative ruling by Superior Court Judge Martha Gooding denied a request by Michael Sean Wright, who brought the lawsuit against the board, to stop Shaw from serving on the board until an election was held.
The tentative ruling sides with the Board of Education, who argue that Wright can only bring forth a “quo warranto” action to challenge Shaw’s appointment.
A “quo warranto” action is a formal inquiry into whether a person, in this case Shaw, has the legal right to hold the public office they occupy.
“Quo warranto is the exclusive remedy in any action, challenging the title to government office, unless it’s merely incidental to the gravamen of the claims being brought,” said Jonathan Brenner, the lawyer for the OC Board of Education, at Monday’s hearing.
“The title of Mr. Shaw to the office is not incidental, it is completely and totally central.”
Lee Fink, the attorney for Wright, argued that the lawsuit isn’t about Shaw, but the process the Orange County Board of Education used to appoint him – about two months after he initially resigned his elected spot there.
“We cannot challenge through quo warranto the process where the board violated the law, and we cannot get the remedy that we seek, which is the ordering of an election,” he said.
Gooding said she will further examine the matter and would issue a final opinion.
The lawsuit against the OC Board of Education comes months after Shaw resigned from his post to avoid litigation for simultaneously holding office on the La Habra City Council.
Board members then decided to appoint Shaw to his old seat, which some of Shaw’s constituents argued is illegal.
Previously, Fink and Wright had argued that Shaw’s reappointment violates Section 1752 of state law, which states:
“No person elected or appointed to the governing body of any city, county or district having an elected governing body, shall be appointed to fill any vacancy on that governing body during the term for which he or she was elected or appointed.”
Brenner and the OC Board of Education argued the board is not an official governing body and so the rule doesn’t apply to them.
At the hearing on Monday, Fink argued that they have submitted “extensive documentation” to prove that the board of education is indeed a governing board that the provision of state law would apply to.
Gooding asked Fink why that matters.
“The only remedy you have would be a quo warranto proceeding and that’s not what this is,” she said.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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