The Attorney General has given the greenlight to a lawsuit that could push Orange County Board of Education member Beckie Gomez into resigning her seat.
On March 2, Gomez was served with a lawsuit by Santa Ana resident Mike Tardif alleging she was violating state law against holding “incompatible offices” by serving simultaneously on the OC Board of Education and on the Tustin City Council.
In order for the lawsuit to move forward, it first had to receive “quo warranto” approval by state Attorney General Rob Bonta, who gave it the greenlight today.
“The application asserts that Gomez, while serving her term on the County Board of Education, assumed a second and incompatible public office as a member of the Tustin City Council, in violation of Government Code section 1099, and by doing so forfeited her seat on the Board of Education,” reads the opinion.
“We conclude that there is a substantial legal issue as to whether Gomez is simultaneously holding incompatible public offices as a member of both the Orange County Board of Education and the Tustin City Council. 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,” Bonta states.
The lawsuit demands “the Court order her ousted and removed” from the OCBE and fine Gomez $5,000. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is Santa Ana resident Mike Tardif, a long-time Santa Ana resident and Republican activist who is running for the 69th Assembly District.
Gomez now must decide whether to fight the lawsuit or resign from the OC Board of Education. OCBE member Tim Shaw faced an identical situation last year when the Attorney General approved an “incompatible offices” lawsuit against him that was filed by a close friend of Paulette Chaffee, whom Shaw had defeated in the March 2020 Board election.
The underlying facts in both cases are identical: Shaw was a member of the La Habra City Council when he was elected to the OCBE, and was re-elected to his council seat in November 2020.
The lawsuit makes exactly that point:
“Gomez and Shaw were both elected to the Orange County Board of Education in the same election, Shaw to District Four and Gomez to District One. Then, they were both elected to their respective city councils in the November 2020 general election. As to Gomez, the offices of Tustin City Councilmember and Board of Education are incompatible for the exact same reasons that applied to Shaw. The only difference between them is cities they serve and the OCDE districts they represent.””
Shaw ultimately decided to avoid possibly ruinous legal expenses and resigned from the OCBE. He later resigned his council seat, and was subsequently appointed to fill the vacancy created by his resignation.
Gomez, a Democrat, was member of the Tustin City Council when she was first elected to the OC Board of Education in 2016, when she defeated incumbent Robert Hammond. She was termed out of her city council position in 2018.
She ran for re-election to the OC Board of Education in March 2020, and assumed that seat on July 1, 2020. Gomez was subsequently ran for the Tustin City Council again; she was elected in November 2020 and sworn in on December 1, 2020.
Gomez denies the incompatibility allegation, contends quo warranto is “not an available remedy under the circumstances” and that granting it would be against “the public interest.” She is being represented by former Brea City Councilman Brett Murdock.