The dispute over Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor’s residency is in the hands of the state attorney general’s office, which will decide whether to allow further legal action to determine if he’s lawfully entitled to remain in office.
In the weeks since the filing of a complaint alleging that the councilman lived in Newport Beach for part of last year, supporting documents have been filed by each side. The accusers claim Mansoor has admitted he has not lived in Costa Mesa throughout his term, while Mansoor’s attorney says the allegations read “more like a political hit piece than a serious lawsuit.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office will review the filings to determine whether the accusers can proceed with a “quo warranto” action in Orange County Superior Court. Such an action requires a person to show what authority he or she has to hold an office.
Mansoor was elected to the City Council for a third time in 2016; his current term runs through 2020.
At the heart of the residency issue is an allegation that Mansoor and his family lived for a time in a house owned by his in-laws in the 1600 block of Pegasus Street in Newport Beach.
Last month’s complaint — signed by Art Perry, a local resident who serves on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District board — claims that in doing so, Mansoor violated state law.
According to state government code, if a city council member “moves his or her place of residence outside the city limits or ceases to be an elector of the city” while in office, “his or her office shall immediately become vacant.”
“I, like many of the other citizens that were concerned about it, think we have to get a remedy to the situation,” Perry said Wednesday.
“If he’s valid, then it’s fine,” Perry said of Mansoor. “But if he’s not, then he should step down.”
Mansoor’s attorney, Chad Morgan, dismissed the allegations in a statement Wednesday.
“Mayor Pro Tem Mansoor has been a consistent resident of Costa Mesa for more than 20 years and expects the attorney general to see through the politically motivated attack that tries to claim otherwise,” Morgan said.
Perry said he anticipates it will take several months for the attorney general’s office to decide the matter.
In legal documents, Mansoor stated that he lived in the Enclave complex near South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa from about 2010 until June 2017, when his last lease expired.
Mansoor said he determined the apartment “no longer met the needs” of his family, so he began looking for a new home and worked with a real estate agent in the search.
“From April 2017 through our June move-out, we looked at many properties,” Mansoor said in statement submitted to the attorney general’s office. “But everything we looked at had a waiting list.”
Around Aug. 1, Mansoor said, he found an apartment for rent on Canyon Drive in Costa Mesa’s Westside. He secured it but wasn’t able to move in until Oct. 17 because it “needed some extensive remodeling.”
“During the time between Enclave and Canyon, there was never a moment that I ... intended to live anywhere other than Costa Mesa, which has been my home for most of my life,” according to his statement.
He did not disclose where he and his family lived between apartments. In an email this week, he directed that question to Morgan, who also didn’t answer.
Perry’s attorney, Brett Murdock, believes that by not answering, Mansoor implicitly “admits he moved out of Costa Mesa.”
“He obfuscates as to where he lived from June to late October, but clearly moved out of the Enclave apartment,” Murdock said in a statement Wednesday.
Murdock, who is running for Orange County district attorney this year, said he thinks the city “should place Mr. Mansoor on an unpaid leave of absence until this matter is decided.”
“He is illegally holding that seat and should not be allowed to vote on any matters before the city, nor collect taxpayer compensation until there is a court ruling,” he said.
In his response to Perry’s original complaint, Morgan argued that Mansoor always intended to maintain his Costa Mesa residency and “could only have changed his residency if there was a union of act and intent.”
Morgan pointed out that Mansoor never registered to vote in Newport Beach, for example — something he would have done if he meant to make that his “permanent residence.”
“While Perry is free to cast judgment in the course of a political campaign, his allegations fail to properly allege, let alone show a probability of success, that Mansoor changed his residency as a matter of law,” Morgan wrote. “It should be clear that Mansoor did not give up his Costa Mesa residency during his move from the Enclave apartment to the Canyon apartment.”
Murdock disputes that interpretation and says a court should be allowed to resolve the issue.
“Without some limitation on the scope of legal residency, the statutes requiring public officials to live in their respective districts would be categorically neutered of their legislative intent,” he wrote in a filing. “Allowing a vague and overbroad notion of residency would effectively permit elected officials to subvert public policy by simply saying that they intend to return to the district someday.”