Becerra, 082318 CAAGO, AGO 17-1201

Docket Nº:AGO 17-1201
Case Date:August 23, 2018
Court:California
 
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XAVIER BECERRA Attorney General
LAWRENCE M. DANIELS Deputy Attorney General
AGO 17-1201
No. 17-1201
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
August 23, 2018
         Proposed relator KLAMATH-TRINITY JOINT UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT has requested leave to sue proposed defendant PATRICIA KELLEY to remove her from the public office of trustee of the Board of Trustees of the Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District on the ground that she did not legally reside in the trustee area that she represents at the time of her election and during her term.          CONCLUSION          Leave to sue is GRANTED to determine whether proposed defendant PATRICIA KELLEY meets the legal residency requirements for holding the public office of school district trustee.          ANALYSIS          Introduction          The Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District (District) is a public school district in Humboldt County. The District is organized into seven trustee areas, each represented by an elected board trustee. On November 7, 2017, Patricia Kelley (Kelley) was elected as trustee of Area Six, which serves the area of Weitchpec. Kelley was sworn in as trustee on January 9, 2018.          Under state law, a school district trustee must reside in the trustee area he or she represents. Here, the District seeks leave to sue Kelley in quo warranto to remove her from office based on the District's allegation that, both at the time of the election and since then, Kelley has resided in Area Two, which serves the area of Willow Creek, rather than in Area Six, which she represents. After reviewing the parties' submissions, we find that the District has raised substantial questions of fact and law concerning whether Kelley resided and resides in Area Six and that it would be in the public interest to allow the District to pursue its claim in court. Accordingly, we grant the District leave to sue.          Factual Background          The central facts regarding Kelley's residence at the time of her election are undisputed. Kelley and her husband own a house in Weitchpec, located in Area Six. Area Six includes the Weitchpec Yurok Magnet/Elementary School, which enrolls 11 students from transitional kindergarten through third grade. Kelley also rents a property in Willow Creek, located in Area Two. She and her husband have custody of a granddaughter, who is in the first grade at the Trinity Valley Elementary School in Willow Creek. Trinity Valley serves about 210 students from transitional kindergarten through eighth grade and is about an hour's drive away from Weitchpec.          Kelley states that she moved to Willow Creek from her and her husband's house in Weitchpec about 12 years ago. After that, she "lived most of the time" at the rental in Willow Creek because it "was much closer to [her] job and [their] children's sports, school (no Jr. High or High School in the Weitchpec area), and jobs." She says, "I did not live in Weitchpec at the time I applied to run for the School Board." She and her husband "are raising two young grandchildren," aged 21 months and seven years, and they "have four grandchildren attending schools in the district, and several planning to as they reach school age." She explains that "the rental near Willow [C]reek was very convenient and necessary." At the same time, she continued to keep up the Weitchpec home and remained "very connected to the Weitchpec community."          Kelley alleges that before the election, someone from the county office of elections told her that she was eligible to run for the seat in Area Six as long as she was registered to vote there.1 After a manager there later informed her that the superintendent of the District believed she was ineligible to run because she did not live in Area Six, she told the manager that "if policy stated [she] had to live in Weitchpec, [she] could move in a weekend, as [she and her husband] have a home...

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