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Vazquez to Step Down from Council Seat


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Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that if the Council fails to make an appointment, a special election would be held in March. It would be held on November 5.

By Jorge Casuso

November 28, 2018 -- Councilmember Tony Vazquez will step down from the council to assume the seat on the State Board of Equalization he won on November 6, the City said in a statement Wednesday.

The announcement came after City Attorney Lane Dilg -- amid speculation Vazquez wanted to serve on both bodies -- asked the California Attorney General whether the two offices are “incompatible” as a matter of law.

Tony Vazquez

"The Office of the Attorney General has opined that the offices are indeed incompatible, and Councilmember Vazquez has advised the City Attorney of his decision to step down from the Santa Monica City Council effective January 7, 2019, when he will be sworn into his new seat on the SBOE," the statement said.

Vazquez, who became the City's first Latino mayor in 2015, has served half of his third four-year term. He was elected in 1990 and served four years before being elected again in 2012.

Once Vazquez submits a letter saying he is stepping down, the City Clerk will advertise for candidates interested in the Council appointment, said City Clerk Denise Anderson-Warren.

The Council has 30 days to make the appointment. If it fails to agree on a replacement, a special election would be held November 5, Anderson-Warren said.

The council would continue with six members until a new member is elected, she said.

Vazquez easily defeated Republican candidate G. Rick Marshall on November 6 in the heavily Democratic District that encompasses Los Angeles County.

After Vazquez won the Democratic primary in June, speculation began to grow that he would attempt to hold both seats if he won the general election as expected.

But the legality of Vazquez holding both posts had not been determined by the City.

Gov. Code Section 1099 codifies the common law prohibition against the holding of “incompatible offices” and "restricts the ability of public officials to hold two different public offices simultaneously if the offices have overlapping and conflicting public duties.

"The consequence of holding an incompatible office is that the person is 'deemed to have forfeited the first office upon acceding to the second,'" according to the FPPC ("Can Vazquez Keep Seat if Elected to State Office? The Answer is Not So Simple," July 24, 2018).

In July, during a deposition in the voting rights case against the City, Vazquez seemed to put to rest the possibility of attempting to hold both positions ("Vazquez Council Seat to Likely Open After November Election," August 14, 2018).

But speculation resurfaced after his general election victory, which prompted the City Attorney to seek a formal opinion. ("City Determining if Vazquez Must Vacate Council Seat after Winning Election to State Board," November 7, 2018).

In recent memory, a Santa Monica Council seat has not opened up when a council member has won a race for higher office in the middle of their term.

However, during the past decade, two current Council members were appointed to fill vacancies created when longtime Council members died in office.

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