Marin IJ

Suit wants Ross Valley flood vote tossed out

Richard Halstead
Marin Independent Journal
Article Launched:08/09/2007 11:33:07 PM PDT

Seeking to get a controversial Ross Valley flood election tossed out, San Anselmo lawyer Ford Greene filed suit in Marin County Superior Court Thursday.

Greene alleges that the ballot used by the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District "hid the notice and warning that failure of the voter to sign the ballot would automatically disqualify his vote."

About 21 percent of the 8,059 votes cast in the mail-in election were disqualified - the majority because they were unsigned. By paying for a manual recount, Greene determined the measure would have failed by 147 votes if the unsigned ballots had counted. Of the 1,678 disqualified ballots, 730 were marked in favor of the flood measure, while 942 were against.

Greene's suit contends that the warning to sign the ballot was poorly placed on the ballot and should have been printed in a larger, more prominent type face.

James Flageollet, chief deputy county counsel for Marin, rejected Greene's allegations. "I believe we followed the statutes," Flageollet said.

Supervisor Hal Brown, who spearheaded the effort to adopt the fee, said, "Greene said he was going to sue. This was to be expected."

Brown considered repeating the election after Greene and others complained about the high number of disqualified ballots, but he ultimately rejected the idea.

"If we'd done that, we'd probably be facing a lawsuit from the other side," Brown said.

Only property owners were allowed to vote on the fee, which is designed to raise about $40 million for flood control projects in Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Ross and San Anselmo.

Brown said one reason he considered repeating the election was that he feared a long court battle that would tie up the flood mitigation funds for years.

Greene said that concern is spurious. Because the suit relates to election law, a hearing must be set within the next 25 days. After the hearing is completed, the presiding Marin Superior Court judge, which will be Lynn Duryee, will have 10 days to issue her opinion.

"This is going to be resolved within 45 days," Greene said.

But Flageollet said a speedy resolution of the matter depends on how far the matter is appealed.

Will Greene appeal if Duryee rules against him?

"I am completely committed to the issue, and will carry it whatever distance is required," Greene said.

Representatives of the Marin United Taxpayers Association, who have solicited donations for a possible suit of their own challenging the election results, could not be reached for comment.

Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at

Hub Law Offices 711 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo, California 94960-1949 415-258-0360