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Judge says lawsuit over Newport ballot arguments wasn’t too late, but denial stands

Judge says lawsuit over Newport ballot arguments wasn’t too late, but denial stands
Visitors gather during the opening ceremony for Newport Beach’s Civic Center and Park in 2013. The city financed the Civic Center largely through certificates of participation, which are the subject of Measure T. (File Photo)

An Orange County Superior Court judge has reversed his decision that a lawsuit to swap out arguments opposing a Newport Beach ballot proposition was filed too late in the day, but he didn’t budge on his other reason for denying the suit.

That means the proposition’s informational pamphlet won’t change.

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Judge Timothy Gibbs revised his findings Tuesday, saying that the statutes he used to reach his conclusion were inconsistent.

He reevaluated after the plaintiffs, former Mayors Keith Curry, Rush Hill and Mike Henn and former Mayor Pro Tem Jean Watt, filed a motion for reconsideration after his initial denial Friday of their request to have their jointly written argument against Measure T run in informational pamphlets in place of one written by local activist Bob Rush.

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Gibbs had concluded that their lawsuit should have been filed by 5:30 p.m. July 19. It didn’t come in until 5:34 p.m. that day, according to a Superior Court time stamp on the cover page.

But the judge said the review periods for the substitution would have delayed publication of the pamphlet for up to three weeks, which he considered too late for the November election.

The group’s lawyer, Phil Greer, told Gibbs about the printing deadline after the initial ruling.

Gibbs acknowledged the substitution would have cleared the Sept. 12 deadline for the November election but blamed the plaintiffs for not providing him with that information during the hearing.

“This constitutes new evidence,” Gibbs wrote in his Tuesday follow-up. “Nevertheless, this is insufficient for the court to grant reconsideration … ”

Greer did not return messages seeking comment.

Measure T will ask voters to approve an amendment to Newport’s city charter to require 55% voter approval whenever the council wants to spend at least $50 million on capital projects using a financing method known as certificates of participation.

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