Who are the players in the redistricting lawsuit against SLO County?

January 16, 2022

Allene Villa

By KAREN VELIE

SLO County Citizens for Good Government and three SLO County residents, registered Democrats, are challenging the county’s supervisor redistricting, saying that it was adopted to benefit the Republican Party at the expense of Democrats, in violation of state law.

The Patten map, drawn by a Richard Patten, a private citizen in Arroyo Grande and a registered Republican, was chosen by a majority of the Board of Supervisors. It included significant changes in the five supervisor districts. It was selected from more than a half dozen other maps put forth by county staff, the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, communities, cities and private persons.

Although the board of supervisors is a nonpartisan entity, the supervisors are split with three Republicans and two Democrats.

Patricia Gomez

Patricia Gomez of San Luis Obispo, Allene Villa of Oceano, Don Muruska of Los Osos and the not-for-profit SLO County Citizens for Good Government said in their suit that the new map gives advantages to the Republican Party and harms Democrats. State law forbids the adoption of “district boundaries for the purpose of favoring or discriminating against a political party.”

That same law requires that, where possible, redistricting maps combine communities of interest and not divide cities into more than one district.

The plaintiffs say that the new district map fails to consider communities of interests, in which rural, urban and agricultural areas have common interests. The new district map groups cities into districts that had not been put together for at least 30 years.

“(a) San Miguel was never in a district with Cayucos or Cambria; (b) Atascadero was never in a district with Cambria; (c) Los Osos was never in a district with Oceano; (d) Oceano has never been in a district that did not include Nipomo; (e) Nipomo has never been in a district that included Pozo; and (f) no attempt was made to ‘unify’ the entire city of San Luis Obispo,” the suit alleges.

Don Muruska

The suit also challenges the manner of the map’s adoption saying that the state mandated requirements that the process of redistricting include substantial public engagement, pointing to a single meeting that provided for telephone or Zoom participation. Additionally, the plaintiffs said that only one meeting that discussed redistricting took place in the evening when the public would be able to attend and that only three meetings had the single item of redistricting on the agenda. The other meetings had redistricting as part of a larger meeting agenda and led to discussion of redistricting taking place long into the meetings.

Latinos in Oceano were not included in the public engagement process, the plaintiffs said. The suit alleges that those voters were not informed about the impact of being placed in a different district and how their votes would be deferred for two years because of the reelection cycle in their new district.

During the redistricting hearings, supporters of no change also accused county staff of failing to provide outreach to Latinos. Staff refuted those claims, saying they had provided information through Spanish language media, both written publications and on the radio.

Opponents of the Patten map said they would challenge the choice in court. The plaintiffs are asking the superior court to find that the redistricting process violated state law, to stay the implementation of the new map, impose a redistricting map and to require the county to pay the plaintiff’s legal and attorneys fees.

The plaintiffs filed suit in Paso Robles. None of the plaintiffs live in North County, but the complaint maintains the place where the suit was filed was proper because the supervisors’ action affects the entire county and the suit includes a challenge to the proposed boundaries of District 1, covering Paso Robles and surrounding areas.

The suit was assigned to the only civil judge in the Paso Robles branch court, Hernaldo Baltodano.

Richard Patten

Erica Baltodano, the judge’s wife, is associated with one of the plaintiffs and also represents Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg on the Civil Service Commission. She is the chair of the board of the SLO Legal Assistance Foundation, and Patricia Gomez is a member of that board.

Plaintiff Allene Villa is a member of the SLO County Progressives Advisory Board, the Oceano Community Services District Board and the Oceano Advisory Council. Villa has long voiced her support of closing the Oceano Dunes to off-highway vehicles and electing Arroyo Grande Councilman Jimmy Paulding to the District 4 seat currently held by Supervisor Lynn Compton, a supporter of the off-road vehicle park.

Don Muruska is a consultant who conducts workshops, often for government employees and elected officials. He is a vocal supporter of Supervisor Bruce Gibson.

Quinn Brady, the spokesperson for SLO County Citizens for Good Government, is a former vice chair of the SLO County Progressives and Heidi Harmon’s former campaign manager. Brady is employed by Megan’s Organics Market, a retail cannabis shop in SLO.

The suit alleges the Republican Party distributed flyers and newsletters and offered “redistricting training” at workshops which Patten attended. The plaintiffs also allege workshop attendees were given guidance and messaging on how to support the Patten map.

This is part one in a two-part series about redistricting and the lawsuit filed against SLO County and its clerk-recorder on Jan. 12.


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Jorge Estrada

So let me get this straight, when the B.O.S. approves a redistricting map that clearly favors the Democratic Party, the answer is get used to it and when the B.O.S. approves a redistricting map that some may argue favors the Republican Party, the answer is to adjudicate?


I’m somewhat perplexed and caution this activity when considering the Democratic Party’s best work supported Biden for President. I just can’t find the lines they are reading between? Is this about good judgment or just control and for what, more of the designed to fail leadership?


As a county resident, I support what’s best for here and not to fall victim to more of Sacramento’s great ideas, like the “self help” mantra Sacramento was preaching. Another way of saying “self help” is your on your own, find new money and just keep sending the tax dollars.


commonsenseguy

Corruption of local official’s even in a lawsuit. Interesting. It appears this judge in the Paso Robles court shouldn’t hear the case. His wife has several close ties with those involved in the suit. A judge from out of the area should hear the case. Anything less than that is unethical and corrupt.


How can Gibson take part in the various meetings these groups are having? Conflict? More corruption by him? What will this group do when Gibson is defeated this next round? File another lawsuit? Election was stolen, voter fraud. I can hear it now,


kevin rise

There’s only one group claiming voter fraud in america, and it has nothing to do with local democrats. Now voter suppression is real, and the same group claiming fraud are suppressing the voters and civil rights of people. Lets get it straight here. Show some evidence of this judges wife’s friends and affiliations vs slander, which is libel. Back up what you say or say nothing at all, as easy as taking hands off keyboard. Maybe go to some local council meetings, I do. Vs typing.


GreatGuy

Thank goodness for these brave patriots who are courageously trying to save democracy in San Luis Obispo county. In contrast, anyone who supports the Patton map is supporting an attack on democracy and fairness. Once again, the Republicans are supporting a despicable lie that threatens the very foundation of our nation.


Last Individual

You’re kidding. Right?


jimmy_me

I’d rather see a lawsuit than have them storm county buildings.


Florian75

That may be their ‘Plan B’ if the lawsuit fails.