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Council Appoints 3 Unopposed Incumbents : Moorpark: City decides that holding an election without challengers would not be worth the cost.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Saying they did not want to spend $4,500 on an election without any challengers, the Moorpark City Council decided Wednesday to appoint the three unopposed incumbents to their regular terms.

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Despite an announcement by former councilman Roy Talley that he was considering a run for the council as a write-in candidate, the council voted 2 to 1 not to hold a local election.

Mayor Paul Lawrason said Talley and any other potential challenger had plenty of time to file their papers with the city clerk before the Aug. 12 filing deadline.

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“The real question is what benefits are gained by having an election with the outcome already determined,” Lawrason said. “The money is a real issue. We spent weeks going through the budget cutting essential items that cost (the equivalent of $4,500).”

Lawrason and Councilman John Wozniak voted against holding an election, while Councilman Scott Montgomery favored an election. Councilmen Patrick Hunter and Bernardo Perez were absent.

“It’s really a small amount of money in light of upholding the democratic process,” Montgomery said. “It feels almost un-American to me not to have these names on the ballot.”

The issue of placing the election on the fall ballot arose because no one came forward to challenge incumbents Lawrason, Wozniak, or Perez by the Aug. 12 deadline. It was the first time this had occurred in Moorpark’s 11-year history.

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The California election code allows cities to call off a vote if only one candidate files to run for each post up for election, Moorpark City Clerk Lillian Hare said.

Wozniak and Perez will serve regular four-year terms under the council decision, and Lawrason will serve a two-year term as mayor.

“This is kind of awkward for us,” Wozniak said. “We’re in the position of appointing ourselves to office. But people should know we’re not doing this out of arrogance. It’s just in these rough economic times, we ask ourselves does it make sense when the outcome would be the same either way.”

During a public hearing on the issue, officials read a letter from Moorpark resident Lynne Owens, who wrote: “Please do not remove our inalienable right to vote just to save some money.” Owens, who calculated that the cost of the election for Moorpark’s 12,000 registered voters was about 35 cents each, taped that amount--a quarter and a dime--to her letter.

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Hunter had also submitted a statement urging the council to hold the election to give write-in candidates a chance to run.

But Perez submitted an opposing statement to the council, saying the money and energy spent on an election with no opposition candidates could be better spent on other issues.

“Could it be, just possibly, that the lack of candidates, the lack of any real controversy surrounding the option of no election, are statements of approval?” Perez’s statement read. “I’m sure we can all offer alternative uses for the budgeted funds. Or, we could simply save the money. Money that would be required for a special election should Scott (Montgomery) prevail in the county supervisors’ race.”

Montgomery is running in November for the seat being vacated by Supervisor Vicky Howard, who is retiring.

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Talley did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, but he criticized the council’s decision after the vote.

“I think using a financial argument to justify their vote was weak,” said Talley, who served on the council from 1990 to 1992 but lost his seat to Perez. “The election is anticipated in the budget. I think they did this so they could stay out of the limelight and so they don’t have to answer to the public for their views. Through the years they’ll reap the repercussions on this vote.”


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