Lawsuit prompted by chain-store ban, housing
By Lenny Roberts
The California Supreme Court Wednesday refused to hear an appeal filed in November by American Civil Liberties Union attorney Peter Eliasberg on behalf of Ojai resident Jeff Furchtencht, who, in 2006, tried to get two initiatives on the general election ballot.
The initiatives, which addressed chain stores and affordable housing, were rejected by Ojai city attorney Monte Widders because Widders believed they were not submitted in the proper manner.
Since the initiatives did not propose legislation, Widders asked Furchtenicht to withdraw, revise and resubmit them. Furch-tenicht refused, and Widders was forced to seek the judicial intervention of the Ventura County Superior Court, according to city officials. A decision by Judge Ken Riley, and later upheld by California 2nd District Court of Appeals Justice Steven Z. Perren, held that Widders had acted properly in refusing to accept Furchtenicht’s initiatives.
In early December, the ACLU asked California’s highest court to review the appeal, which it denied Wedneday.
When notified of that decision, attorney Eliasberg said, “I’m very disappointed and think the court of appeals denial will have a chilling effect on people who want to use the initiative process.”
In a prepared statement, Widders acknowledged that the Supreme Court’s decision was “very satisfying.” Mayor Joe DeVito said, “It is gratifying to have the California courts affirm the actions of our city officials. The issues in the case have long ago been discussed and acted upon by the City Council.”
Furchtenicht did not return a call by press time.
The two-year-long battle cost the city of Ojai $93,810, according to city manager Jerry Kersnar.