Lockyer Rejects Bid to Oust San Diego School Board Head
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Attorney General Bill Lockyer has rejected a quo warranto application seeking to oust San Diego Unified School District board President Ronald Ottinger from the board.
Lockyer concluded, in an opinion released last week, that Ottinger, a third-term board member, retains a legal residency in San Diego, even though he lives part of the time with his wife and stepchildren in Coronado.
Voters for Truth in Education, Inc. brought the quo warranto application, the sole procedure by which a member of the public may seek the ouster of a public official through judicial action. If the attorney general grants leave to sue, the applicant may bring the action in Superior Court.
The attorney general is required by law to grant leave if the applicant presents “a substantial issue of fact or law requiring judicial resolution” with regard to the subject’s right to remain in office.
Such proceedings have often been brought in the past to question a public official’s residency. Lockyer’s predecessor, Dan Lungren, granted leave in 1998 when two members of the Grossmont Union High School District were alleged to live outside the district; both resigned rather than contest the issue in court.
Voters for Truth in Education is a group that strongly opposes San Diego USD Superintendent Alan Bersin, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, and the Ottinger-led board majority that supports him. They brought their quo warranto application after an effort to force a recall election failed.
Ottinger’s term expires next December. He announced several months ago that he would not run for a fourth term in the March primary.
In his response to the application, Ottinger explained that he has had a domicile in the district since 1985. When first elected in 1992, he lived with his first wife and their children in the city’s Kensington area.
In 1999, while he was serving his second term, he and his wife divorced; they share custody of their three children. He remarried in 2001, and he and his wife rented a large house in Coronado, which he acknowledged is where he spends most of his time.
He has continued to keep a downtown San Diego apartment, however, and divides his personal belongings between the apartment and the house, Ottinger asserted. The apartment serves as his mailing address; he receives Internet and telephone service there; parks his car in a nearby lot; lists the address on his driver’s license, voter registration, and tax statements, and spends considerable time there, he said.
The Government Code does not preclude a person from maintaining a legal residence apart from that of his or her spouse and children, the attorney general concluded. Ottinger’s declaration that he resides at the San Diego apartment, “corroborated by his conduct,” is sufficient to establish that place as his domicile, Lockyer said.
The opinion was prepared for Lockyer by Deputy Attorney General Susan Duncan Lee.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company