Tim Shaw will continue to fight for his seat on the Orange County Board of Education after California Attorney General Rob Bonta granted another lawsuit against the trustee to proceed.

“We conclude that there is a substantial legal issue as to whether Shaw’s appointment to the Orange County Board of Education was lawful. Consequently, and because the public interest will be served by allowing the proposed quo warranto action to proceed, the application for leave to sue is GRANTED,” reads an opinion from Bonta’s office.

“In determining whether to grant that consent, we do not attempt to resolve the merits of the controversy.”

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, and must be approved by the attorney general’s office.

At heart of the issue is Shaw’s December 21 appointment to the board of education after he abruptly resigned from his elected board seat in November because he was also a La Habra City Councilman. 

Shaw ended up quitting the city council right before getting reappointed to the board of education. 

The Attorney General’s opinion comes just months away from the June election when Shaw’s seat will be up for a vote.

In a phone call Thursday afternoon, Shaw called the continuing lawsuit “legal harassment and openly political,” pointing out how there were only two meetings left until the election and the voters should get to choose who got the seat without interference. 

“They want a judge to give an adverse ruling against me to use it as a club to beat me up with during the campaign,” Shaw said. “Why don’t we just cool our jets and let the voters decide in the election.” 

The quo warranto decision comes about a month after Superior Court Judge Martha Gooding denied a request by Michael Sean Wright, a resident who brought a lawsuit against the county’s board of education, to stop Shaw from serving on the board until an election was held.

The ruling sided with the Board of Education, who argued that Wright can only bring forth a “quo warranto” action to challenge Shaw’s appointment.

[Read: Tim Shaw to Stay on Orange County Board of Education After Lawsuit Sputters Out]

Wright filed a quo warranto action a week before the ruling, in case Gooding sided with the board of education.

“We intend to pursue the matter to vindicate the public’s rights and ensure that the board of education complies with the law,” said Lee Fink, Wright’s attorney. 

He also said they are required to work with the attorney general to file a complaint.

“We’re moving with all deliberate speed to get that done,” Fink said. 

Bonta and Deputy Attorney General Marc Nolan said there is a “substantial issue” as to whether Shaw’s appointment to the County Board of Education was legal.

“It is in the public interest to have a court determine the legal validity of Shaw’s appointment. Shaw maintains that there is only a relatively short time between now and the June 2022 election and argues that the election will moot issues surrounding his appointment. But we believe that the superior court should at least have the opportunity to resolve this matter before the election,” reads the opinion.

“The validity of the appointment process employed here is a question of public importance that would benefit from judicial review.”

§

Shaw was initially threatened with a quo warranto lawsuit last year, that the state attorney general’s office allowed to proceed, for holding a seat on the County’s board of education and the La Habra City Council.

Instead of fighting, Shaw decided to resign from the board of education

About a month later, Board members decided to appoint Shaw to his old seat, which some of Shaw’s constituents argued is illegal. 

The board was then sued by Wright who argued that the appointment violated state law.

Beckie Gomez, another member on the Orange County Board of Education, was also hit with a legal threat for simultaneously holding a seat on the Tustin City Council.

[Read: Another OC Board of Education Member Faces Legal Threat for Holding Two Elected Offices]

California’s primary election will take place on June 7. While many races will continue with the top vote getters facing off in November, the race for this particular school board seat will be decided in June.

This story was updated to clarify that the state primary election in June will determine the race for this particular school board seat.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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