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Updated 1:04 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13 

By Eric Heinz

In a turn of events, the city of San Clemente will not seek to initiate a recount of Measure OO, which was intended to raise the transient occupancy tax (TOT or hotel tax) for nightly rates in San Clemente from 10 percent to 13 percent. It failed to pass by eight votes.

At the Tuesday, Dec. 6, City Council meeting, the city voted to do a recount, but on Monday, Dec. 12, Neal Kelley of the Orange County Registrar of Voters said the city had decided to cancel it.

Kelley said the city could not initiate the recount as an entity but had planned to amend their decision to submit as a voter to comply with state law.

Kelley also said the city will not be charged for a recount, which could have cost between $18,000 and $40,000.

At the Dec. 6 meeting, Councilman Tim Brown said if Measure OO had passed, the increase in taxes would have provided between $600,000 and $1 million to fund three and a half to four more Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies for San Clemente, although the ballot measure wasn’t really advertised to do so. No candidate during the election supported or opposed it.

City Clerk Joanne Baade said the Orange County Registrar of Voters has only had one overturned election due to a recount since 2000, and that election wouldn’t have been overturned if it occurred a year later as certain election code had changed.

The vote to initiate the recount was 3-1-1 with Councilwoman Lori Donchak opposing, saying she trusted the results and spending the money on the recount likely won’t overturn the election. Mayor Bob Baker abstained.

City manager James Makshanoff said city officials contemplated amending the recount proposal for an individual from the city to submit the request, but he said they decided against it.

“We thought about and contemplated having an individual submit the recount request, but we didn’t feel that was appropriate,” Makshanoff said, adding it would be about

City attorney Scott Smith said the issue could be brought back during a general or special election.

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comments (4)

  • The report on this recount issue left out several important facts:

    1. In our opinion, the issue of a recount was not on the City’s agenda in time to comply with the Brown Act.

    2. The stated reason of the majority of the council for voting to pay for this recount was to try and flip the no result to a yes result.

    3. There was no vote to have the City fund any individual’s desire for a recount.

    4. There was no mention or evidence of voter fraud or other irregularities to warrant a recount. Councilperson Hamm (interrupting Councilperson Lori Donchak’s objections to this city funded recount) stated “Dude, listen, hey, I’m a gamblin’ man. The percentage that nine votes are gonna be different? I say it’s worth a shot.” – Of course this gamble would be with the City of San Clemente’s taxpayer funds – not his own money. To hear Mr. Hamm make this statement go to: – it is in the last 30 minutes of the Council’s December 6, 2016 meeting.

    5. Even though the City voted to ask the Registrar of Voters to conduct a recount and for the City to pay for it, after the Council meeting adjourned the City Manager issued an unsigned letter to the County stating that he (as an individual) wished there to be a recount with the City picking up the tab for that cost.

    6. Attorney Brad Malamud of San Clemente issued to city a letter noting that their vote on December 6th was in violation of the Brown Act.

    7. On Friday morning Attorney Chad Morgan of Corona, (and my law firm in Dana Point) on behalf of the California Policy Center, Inc. ( and several San Clemente residents notified the City that we were going to go into Court the following Monday to seek a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the recount. The basis of asking the Court to stop the recount was on the grounds that the expenditure of public funds for this did not comply with the Elections Code. Also that the City had not brought forth evidence of irregularities in the voting process on the Measure OO vote. To see a copy of Mr. Morgan’s letter go to:

    8. Early Friday afternoon the City Attorney notified Mr. Morgan and myself that the City would not be conducting the recount at all.

    9. Even though the City (without a meeting of the City Council) decided to cancel the recount, there has not been, to date, any City Council meeting with this issue listed on the agenda per the Brown Act, to formally reverse the December 6th vote.

    So why did the City not move forward with the recount of the votes on Measure OO? Does City Councilperson Hamm have the best interests of the San Clemente taxpayer in mind? Above are the facts – you decide.

    Craig P. Alexander, Esq.
    Dana Point

  • In reading this article, the subsequent comments by this lawyer from Dana Point and the lawyers he mentions in his comments — it seems they are just lawsuit happy profiteers.

    Wishing they would try to help the city with real issues, like going after the school districts squandering of taxpayer money with no accountability to help students and taxpayers, OR helping with the nuclear waste issues at SONGS, OR putting an end to TCA toll roads initiatives through San Clemente, instead of just trying to exploit the city and taxpayers for their own gain.

    We need more people that actively want to help, instead of just helping themselves.

  • Mr. Romero makes the important point that some of us, including Mr. Alexander are trying to stop illegality and government waste. The vote to spend money to recount was not properly noticed and was likely illegal. there was no profiteering. there was no grandstanding. With our collective pressure the city did the right thing but has yet to provide us details.
    Government must be kept to account.

  • Ya’ so they’d like you to believe that keeping TOT tax at the low and old decades-old rate is not profiteering.

    Meanwhile completely silent on doing anything for the greater good of the community as was suggested.

comments (4)

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