Challenge to Councilman in Mission Viejo Ends

Times Staff Writer

Robert Breton, an unsuccessful Mission Viejo City Council candidate, on Wednesday dropped a lawsuit against Councilman Robert A. Curtis in which he contested the election's result.

Breton and Curtis announced an out-of-court settlement of the suit in a joint press conference Wednesday night at City Hall.

"While I do not retreat from my belief in the correctness of my position in the lawsuit, I nevertheless feel that the community will be better served by the termination of this litigation. No matter who won the lawsuit, the city would lose a measure of the prestige and preeminence which all the citizens of Mission Viejo have worked so hard to preserve," Breton said, reading from a prepared statement.

Breton, who came in sixth in the five-member City Council race Nov. 3, would not comment beyond the statement. He filed a lawsuit March 29 against Curtis, contesting the election and charging that Curtis violated the California Election Code by not meeting the legal residency requirements when he filed for city office in August.

City Created in March

"Although he and I do have differences of opinion, both on the merits of this suit in particular and on certain issues, we share a desire to make personal sacrifices in order to seek the privilege of public service," said Curtis, who also read from a prepared statement.

Breton filed the suit just two days before Curtis was to be sworn in as a member of Mission Viejo's first City Council after it became the 27th city in Orange County on March 31.

When the suit was filed, an Orange County Superior Court commissioner denied Breton's request for a temporary restraining order that would have prevented Curtis from being sworn in. But still pending was Breton's request for a preliminary injunction aimed at removing Curtis from office.

Breton, 42, had charged that Curtis, 32, was not a Mission Viejo resident when he filed election candidacy papers on Aug. 27, 1987, in violation of the Election Code requirement that a candidate be a resident and a registered voter within the area he would be elected to serve.

Breton, a deputy attorney general for the state Department of Justice, argued that Curtis, a lawyer in private practice, should be disqualified from office and that Breton, as sixth-place finisher in the voting, should replace him.

Before the election filing deadline of Aug. 27, 1987, Curtis had been living in Aegean Hills, an unincorporated area next to Mission Viejo. After Curtis' failed attempts to have the community included in Mission Viejo's cityhood proposal, his father bought a Mission Viejo condominium, where Curtis slept on the floor in a sleeping bag on Aug. 26 to establish his residency.

Application Dated Aug. 27

In court documents, a photocopy of Curtis' voter registration application shows that Curtis dated it Aug. 27. However, the registrar's verification date on the application is Aug. 26. Breton charged Curtis postdated the application Aug. 27, with the intention of spending the night of Aug. 26 in the condominium.

Curtis said he mistakenly wrote Aug. 27 on the application. "I never had any intention to (deceive) the registrar of voters. It was my intention to register and reside in the city on the 26th of August," Curtis said at the time of the lawsuit.

In court documents Breton declared that he and Curtis "have fundamental differences . . . and would take the city in different directions," referring to their diverse political backgrounds. Although the election was nonpartisan, neither Breton, a Democrat, nor Curtis, a Republican, kept secret their political party affiliations.

Breton was an elected board member of the Mission Viejo Community Service District, an agency that provided some municipal services, such as street cleaning, before cityhood.

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