Oral arguments were heard on Jan. 25 regarding a civil case on a local political consultant’s actions on a ballot measure.
Dan Dellinger Consultants, run by Dan Dellinger, was contracted by the Pioneer Fire Protection District in “qualifying and then providing information on” the measure, a press release from the District Attorney’s Office stated. Measure F passed in November 2011 with almost 80 percent of the vote. In response to the charges, Dellinger’s attorney, Robert Laurie, filed a demurrer to have the charges dismissed.
The tentative ruling was to have the demurrer overruled. Dellinger and Laurie then requested oral arguments regarding the ruling.
Judge Nelson Keith Brooks recused himself on the case, as he had been legal partners with Laurie prior to becoming a judge, and Laurie had been involved in Brooks’ election campaign. Retired Judge Thomas A. Smith then took the bench after confusion over which courtroom the hearing would be held in.
Laurie was first to speak, telling the court that he was concerned the plaintiff, the County of El Dorado, represented by deputy district attorney James Clinchard, was “seeking a legislative change in statute in order to fit this case into prohibition.” The case revolves around use of public funds and resources for part of the Measure F campaign.
“There’s no allegation that the contract was unlawful or that (Dellinger) didn’t perform, that he didn’t get paid,” Laurie said. “It’s that he performed activities outside of the contract, but it falls under the First Amendment.” The two actions, Laurie said, were preparing the in-favor ballot statement and handing out fliers for a barbecue.
The terminology used in the complaint, “at the taxpayer’s expense,” was a made-up term in the legal realm, Laurie said, but its use was purposeful. Instead, the complaint must allege that it was the result of a public expenditure or that it was a use of public resources. The DA, he said, could not support those charges, so he used different language.
After Smith noted that the term “at the taxpayer’s expense” was indeed used, Laurie questioned why the language of the statute was not used, and noted that the complaint should be amended.
Clinchard was then given a chance to speak. Laurie, he said, was asking to “hyper-technically construe” the language of the complaint. “At the end of the day, is the defendant put on notice on what charges are against him?”
He said the defense was “given money to perform illegal campaign actions” and that the term “use” was being very throughly construed. The defenses being used, he concluded, were better left for discovery and trial.
Laurie responded, saying he was not being hyper-technical, but that “we’re relying on the words of the law.” The terminology in the complaint was “amorphous, we believe purposeful, and an inappropriate term to use.”
The judge said that the complaint seemed to infer that Dellinger was using public resources and this could simply be a “matter of semantics.”
Both sides submitted their arguments, Smith left the bench to re-read the complaint and the hearing concluded.
An e-mail that evening from Clinchard to the Mountain Democrat revealed that Smith had sided with the original tentative ruling. The demurrer was overruled and the charges were not dismissed.
Contact Cole Mayer at 530-344-5068 or [email protected] Follow @CMayerMtDemo.