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Independent Voice

City Spends $28K to Edit 44 Words

Oct 28, 2021 12:00AM ● By Debra Dingman

DIXON, CA (MPG) - According to documents obtained by the Solano Taxpayers Association and shared with this newspaper, the city of Dixon spent $28,454.20 on a legal action against the Solano County Board of Supervisors. The successful legal action sought to have 44 words stricken from the candidate statement of City Clerk candidate Michael Ceremello in the official election guide published by the county.

City Attorney Doug White of White Brenner, LLP argued that the 44 words were misleading as they referenced the default California law regarding the role of city clerks, which had been superseded with changes in city law leading up to and following the passage of Measure T.

White argued that the sections of California law referenced by Ceremello in his statement would confuse voters as they are no longer relevant to the elected City Clerk position in the City of Dixon. The City Elections official, City Manager Jim Lindley, did not contest the statement when it was submitted which would have avoided the legal action.

“It is puzzling that the City Manager, Jim Lindley, who has assumed the duties of the City of Dixon Elections Officer, allowed, what he claims is an “incorrect” candidate’s statement to be filed with the County. Ceremello filed his candidate’s statement with the City of Dixon’s Elections Officer, and they had no problem with that statement,” said Michael Nolan, President of Solano County Taxpayers Association.

The language that the City had removed dealt with the City Clerk duties of public records requests, appeals, and Elections Official. Until Measure T had qualified to be on the ballot last year, these duties were included in the responsibilities of the City Clerk. But the Council at the time changed the ordinances and separated the City Clerk position into two separate roles: an Elected City Clerk and an Administrative City Clerk. This drew the ire of Measure T supporters who claim that the Council was attempting to water down the position and subvert the will of the voters in passing Measure T.

“Mike Ceremello had some things in his campaign statement that weren’t appropriate and Doug White, the Elections Clerk or the purveyor of that, contacted Mike to discuss what needed to be removed or changed but he refused to do so. He left us no choice but to take him to court,” said Mayor Steve Bird.

“Nothing of what I said in my original candidate statement is untrue,” said Ceremello, who was named as an interested party in the legal action and had to appear at an official meeting. Even though not technically a defendant, Ceremello reported spending $435 to file an opposition statement. “My personal legal costs were nothing in comparison to the city spending 28 thousand dollars. Read the invoices. They spent nine hours three different times to review my statement. It’s ridiculous,” he said.

“If Jim Lindley had done the job he claims to have, there would have been no lawsuit. It seems that while the City Manager wants the authority of City Elections Officer, he too readily gave the responsibility to the County Registrar of Voters, which cost the Dixon Taxpayers $28,454.20,” said SCTA President Nolan. “Since City Elections Officer Jim Lindley made the mistake, City Manager Jim Lindley should demand repayment of the attorney fees from himself.”

City Manager Jim Lindley said it was the duty of the City Attorney to review candidates’ statements and rarely are they changed.

“We do this every election. It only gets changed when there is something wildly inaccurate or blatantly untrue. Those things get changed all the time,” Lindley said, adding that the attorney brought his concerns to the Council and the Council said to ask Ceremello for the changes. “Mike refused to make any changes and took him to court to change that and the judge agreed and suggested better wording so those were incorporated,” he said.

“The truth of the matter is that Mike cost the city taxpayer money because he wasn’t willing to participate or play fairly,” said Bird. “It’s unfortunate. We’re in the situation we’re in because of that.”

“I’ve not done any research on this issue so will withhold comment,” said Kristin Janisch, the temporary Elected City Clerk who is Ceremello’s opposing candidate. Dixon voters will decide at the polls between the two on Nov. 2.