Elections

Citrus Heights planning commissioner can use her title on fall ballot, judge rules

The Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, decision in Sacramento Superior Court ends a month-long legal fight between Porsche Middleton and the Citrus Heights City Clerk’s Office over whether Middleton should be designated a planning commissioner on the November ballot.
The Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, decision in Sacramento Superior Court ends a month-long legal fight between Porsche Middleton and the Citrus Heights City Clerk’s Office over whether Middleton should be designated a planning commissioner on the November ballot. Porsche Middleton

A Citrus Heights planning commissioner and candidate for City Council on Wednesday won a month-long legal fight to change her ballot designation to reflect her role with the city ahead of its November election.

“It’s a big deal. The election’s in November,” Porsche Middleton said outside court following the afternoon ruling. “This tells people I’m serving the community. I’m happy they’ll see that now.”

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner sided with Middleton at a Wednesday hearing, saying her work as a commissioner earned the right to have the title printed on the Nov. 6 ballot. Middleton was pushing against a deadline. Elections officials had to have ballot designations in hand by 5 p.m. Thursday.

“This tells voters what they need to make an informed decision,” Sumner ruled from the bench, saying that although an alternate title of “community volunteer” was also accurate, it “told voters less in this instance.”

The City Clerk’s Office had fought to keep Middleton’s second choice, “community volunteer,” on the ballot after Middleton declared her candidacy Aug. 4.

Middleton petitioned Citrus Heights election officials in early August to be identified as a city planning commissioner, a role she had held since June 2017.

But attorneys for Citrus Heights City Clerk Amy Van argued that a planning commissioner is not a “principal profession,” that commissioners had met fewer than once a month in the past year and that the duties she performed do not qualify as an occupation. “She’s dedicated an incredible amount of time to community service,” attorney Kristen Rogers said Wednesday. “That’s real. It’s what the description should convey.”

Middleton attorney Terry J. Martin on Wednesday argued that the city clerk’s opinion was an “overly restrictive view” of Middleton’s service on the panel and cited examples in three local jurisdictions — Arden-Arcade, Elk Grove and Sacramento County — in which candidates were permitted to use their planning commissioner title on the ballot.

Citrus Heights city manager’s officials in a statement Wednesday night called Van’s review of Middleton’s proposed ballot designation routine prior to an election. They said the City Clerk’s Office determined Middleton’s proposal ran afoul of elections law, leading to the Wednesday court date, but added they will not contest the judge’s decision.

“Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the court’s decision we respect the ruling and will promptly comply,” the statement read.

Middleton received congratulations from family and supporters outside Sumner’s courtroom after the ruling. She talked about her work as a planning commissioner and the work to argue her case in court.

“Twenty hours a week — the past couple of months, it’s been more like 40 hours a week. At one point, we had to read over 2,000 pages of documents for (California Environmental Quality Act) filings,” she said. “It’s been a fight every day since we filed our nomination papers on (Aug. 4). It’s critically important that people who serve their community are accurately represented on their ballot — and that the community is informed about how and what they do in the community.”

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