Two men re-elected to the Loomis Town Council in November 2010 can serve their current term and run for another, despite a term-limit measure approved by town voters in the same election that would have prevented that, according to an opinion issued by the California attorney general's office.
The opinion was released Monday, the opening of the filing period for the November 2012 council election.
The attorney general's office concluded Loomis' voter-approved term limit initiative can't be applied retroactively. It said a term served on a town council prior to the effective date of that term-limit ordinance could not be counted against the term limit imposed by that ordinance.
But in cases where the terms of newly elected or re-elected council members begin shortly before the effective date of the term-limit ordinance, the new term may be counted as the first of the two terms that the new ordinance allows.
"This is consistent with what we've been saying from the start," said Councilman Walt Scherer.
Loomis voters elected Scherer and Councilman Miguel Ucovich to fourth consecutive terms at the same time they approved Measure A, an initiative limiting council members to two consecutive four-year terms.
That raised the question of whether Scherer and Ucovich would be required to give up their seats to candidates who received fewer votes. The councilmen and other Measure A opponents argued that under state law, term limits couldn't be applied retroactively and the attorney general's office agreed.
Scherer and Ucovich began their new terms 10 days before the term-limit ordinance took effect in December 2010.
To the satisfaction of term-limit proponents, the attorney general concluded that the current term counts as the first term, meaning Scherer and Ucovich now may seek one additional term, not two.
"We expected it to come down that way, the half-and-half (decision)," said Sonja Culper, a leader of the Measure A campaign.
Both Scherer and Culper said they wished the matter could have been resolved without spending $30,000 in taxpayers' money on legal fees.
Measure A proponents intended to place the initiative before voters in June 2010, with the term limits applying to any council member who had served two consecutive terms by Aug. 1 of that year. But a June vote would have required a special election.
Scherer said the proponents could have avoided the problem by eliminating the retroactive provision before placing the initiative on the November ballot.
Culper said it is difficult for the average citizen to know the ins and outs of the political process. "It's kind of hard if you don't know how to play the game you're at a disadvantage," she said.
But with passage of Measure A, she said, "We know that one day the people that are entrenched will be gone."
Scherer and Ucovich have said they believe the term-limit measure was a "grudge" measure specifically intended to prevent them from seeking re-election.
"I just wish people wouldn't be so angry when they try to improve government," Scherer said. "If we love America and democracy, we should treat it as something we love. You don't change children you love with a stick. You change them with thought and concern."