Riverside veto case won’t be decided quickly in court

The Press-Enterprise | April 9, 2018 –

Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey’s lawsuit against the city will continue hanging over the city for at least the next few months, after a judge on Monday, April 9, denied Bailey’s attempt to speed up the process.

It has been more than two months since Bailey tried to veto City Manager John Russo’s new contract, which Bailey says costs the city too much and is poorly timed.

When City Attorney Gary Geuss and other city officials told Bailey the city’s charter doesn’t allow that veto, Bailey — who interprets the charter differently — took what Guess said was his only option and sued the city March 9. The suit sought to stop the city from following the provisions of the new employment contract unless the City Council votes to override Bailey’s veto, a vote the charter requires 30 to 60 days after the veto.

Pointing to that requirement, Bailey wanted a decision within 60 days — a deadline that has now passed.

Judge Randall S. Stamen ruled Monday that there was no good reason to rush.

“… the Court takes into account that this action concerns complex and far-reaching issues and substantive rights which may deeply affect the citizens of the City of Riverside, the officials they elect, and the governance of the City of Riverside,” Stamen wrote. “The Court’s decisions on those issues and substantive rights should not be made in a hurried basis …”

Bailey said Monday that he expected the decision, though he still thinks a veto override hearing is the appropriate way to decide the issue. He said he’ll continue doing the city’s business and expects those on both sides of the dispute to do the same.

“I’m going to work every day, and I’m going to conduct myself professionally,” he said.

The attorney representing the city, Michael Colantuono of Colantuono Highsmith Whatley in Grass Valley, praised the judge’s decision.

“The city is grateful that the judge is allowing the time to give this case the consideration it deserves,” Colantuono said Monday. “We look forward to resolving it the usual way over the course of the next three to six months.”

Bailey points to language in the city charter saying the mayor can veto any formal action, with certain exceptions that don’t include contracts for the city manager. Other city officials point to the charter’s declaration that the city manager serves at the pleasure of the City Council.

The city also argues the suit should be thrown out because a mayor has no legal standing to sue his own city. Riverside’s attorney also argued unsuccessfully that the case should be heard in another county because Bailey’s father was a judge in the city.

The next hearing in the case is set for May 8.

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