March 28, 2015
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2001 Final Report:
Abuse of the Governmental Process
2001 Final Report:
Abuse of the Governmental Process
a public official moves outside the district in which elected, a vacancy
occurs at once and should be filled. A responsible public official, who
lives most of the time outside the district in which elected, moreover
should resign the office to allow for the proper appointment or election
of a replacement. The 2001-2002 Grand Jury reviewed two incidences of
local officials who violated this trust.
Carol Cupp continued
to serve on the Coastside County Water District (CCWD) Board of Directors
for six months after she moved out of the district. Eleanor Wittrup continues
to serve on the CCWD board although she teaches full time at the University
of the Pacific in Stockton and owns a home there.
The Grand Jury believes
that Ms. Cupp manipulated the electoral process and deprived district
voters of the right to elect her replacement. As a result of her delay
in resigning her office and the inability of the remaining CCWD board
members to appoint her replacement or call an election, the decision statutorily
defaulted to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors who then appointed
the fifth member to the CCWD board.
The Grand Jury believes
Eleanor Wittrup is similarly manipulating the electoral process because
she spends most of her time outside the district. These individuals show
a callous disregard for democracy and the rule of representative government.
Cupp, a member of the CCWD Board of Directors, moved with her family to
Weed, California, in August 2001. Although no longer living in the district,
she continued to sit on the CCWD board for the next six months, officially
resigning in February 2002. Her reason for not resigning from the CCWD
board after she became a nonresident was based on the opinion of CCWD's
counsel that Ms. Cupp could live outside the district for up to six months
before she must resign or move back to the district.
Due to Ms. Cupp's continued membership on the CCWD board, district voters were unable to vote for her replacement during the November 2001 general election. Under state law, the CCWD board had a designated time period within which to appoint Ms. Cupp's replacement or call an election.
After Ms. Cupp finally
resigned in February 2002, the CCWD board was deadlocked and unable to
appoint a replacement. The matter statutorily defaulted to the San Mateo
County Board of Supervisors. Unwilling to allow a contentious deadlock
situation to exist regarding vital issues such as fire safety and water
distribution until the next possible election in November 2002, the Supervisors
appointed John Muller as the fifth member of the CCWD Board of Directors
on April 2, 2002.
Cupp became a nonresident of the district when she moved to Weed, California,
in August 2001. There is no issue that she changed her residency to Weed,
her actions and words indicated as much. She remained on the CCWD board
for six months after her move, however, maintaining that it was proper
according to the opinion of CCWD's counsel.
of San Mateo County Counsel is that Government Code Section 1770 provides
that an office becomes vacant when the individual ceases to be an inhabitant
of the local area for which local residence is required by law in order
to serve in office. Section 1770 does not provide for a time period to
submit a resignation due to a change in residency; it simply states that
the vacancy is created upon a change in residence. If the individual moved
back into the district within six months or if there is any question as
to whether the move was permanent, then Water Code Section 30508 may come
into play to help determine whether the change in residence was permanent.
30508 provides in effect that, if the individual's place of residence
is moved outside of the district and if within 180 days of the move the
individual fails to reestablish a place of residence within the district,
it shall be presumed that a permanent change of residence has occurred
and that a vacancy exists pursuant to Government Code Section 1770. In
this instance, there is no issue whether Carol Cupp had a permanent change
of residence and, accordingly, Water Code Section 30508 should not come
into play. Ms. Cupp's actions and words clearly indicated a permanent
change of residency in August 2001 when she moved to Weed. A vacancy was
thus created on the CCWD Board of Directors. Further, CCWD counsel should
have advised the CCWD board that Water Code Section 30504 directs that
under Government Code Section 1780, director vacancies are to be filled
either by appointment by the remaining board members or by calling a special
election within a designated period.
counsel's opinion created the perception that a member of the CCWD board
can remain in office for up to six months after becoming a nonresident
of the district and no longer living in the community he or she supposedly
represents. CCWD counsel's opinion, and Ms. Cupp's failure to resign,
prevented the vacancy on the board from being filled. This deprived the
voters of their right to elect her replacement and eventually created
a situation whereby the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors decided
to appoint a replacement. The Grand Jury believes that the CCWD board
manipulated the electoral process and district voters were the losers.
member of the CCWD board, Eleanor Wittrup, sold her home in the district
and purchased a home in Stockton, California, where she holds a full time
position at the University of the Pacific. Ms. Wittrup contends that she
continues to be a resident of the district because she rents an apartment
there. Although she may be able to make a case that she is technically
a resident of the district, the Grand Jury believes that Ms. Wittrup's
continued presence on the CCWD board is also a manipulation of the process
of representative government.
of a law requiring that an officeholder be a resident of the represented
district is that the person be physically in and a part of that community.
As a full time faculty member in Stockton, Ms. Wittrup spends most of
her time away from the citizens and the pulse of the community that she
supposedly represents. The Grand Jury believes that Ms. Wittrup's continued
presence on the CCWD board is contrary to the intent of the law.
Coastside County Water District Response
The Board of Directors of the Coastside County Water District considered the above-referenced report of the County Civil Grand Jury at its meeting held June 10, 2002. This letter shall serve as the District's response to the Grand Jury Report as called for in the letter dated June 3, 2002 from Court Executive Officer Peggy Thompson.
1. Response to the Grand Jury's Findings:
In summary, the Grand Jury's quarrel would appear with the State Legislature for enacting Water Code section 30508. The Legislature's "intent" statute appears to be consistent with the plain meaning of the statute, to permit a director of a county water district to remain in office for up to 180 days after his or her residence has moved outside of the district. And the Grand Jury's interpretation of the "intent" appears to be largely conjecture.
b. Findings Concerning Eleanor Wittrup's Residency:
2. Response to the Grand Jury's Recommendations:
Although the Board of Directors disagrees with the findings of the Grand Jury as detailed above, it has nevertheless implemented the recommendations contained in the Grand Jury Report as follows:
On behalf of the Coastside County Water District, I would like to thank you for your consideration of the foregoing and thank the Grand Jury for its important service to the community concerning these policy issues.
John Muller, President
Ed Schmidt, General Manager