Supervisor Dawn Rowe

The California Supreme Court will decide whether a local advocacy group properly challenged San Bernardino County Supervisor Dawn Rowe’s appointment in 2018.

The highest court in the state will decide whether Inland Empire United’s allegation that supervisors violated the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law, during its appointment of Third District Supervisor Dawn Rowe. The group challenged Rowe’s appointment by a petition for writ of mandate or an action in quo warrant to the exclusive procedure.

“The court could decide in two months or in a year, there is no specific time. If the court decides we properly challenged the county, then the case goes to the lower court which basically said she should not be in office,” said Michael Gomez Daly, executive director of I.E. United. “The court will listen to the arguments regardless if she gets elected. The county is just buying time.”

Meanwhile, the temporary stay issued by the Supreme Court on Jan. 23, remains in effect pending further order, which means Rowe could remain in office until otherwise stated.

In September of 2019, a Superior Court judge ruled the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors violated the Brown Act during Rowe’s appointment. The judge ordered the appointment be rescinded.

The county appealed, requesting the order to remove Rowe be stayed. The petition was granted; however, in early January an appellate court reversed the ruling. The county appealed the case to the California Supreme Court.

I.E. United does not have “unlimited amounts of money” to fight in courts, thus it may not appeal the decision if unfavorable, said Gomez Daly.

“The county changed the amount of money allowed to spend per year per case from $100,000 to $200,000, meaning the county has spent well over $500,000 on this case fighting to defend this appointment,” said Gomez Daly. “We filed the correct paperwork, but if the court says the opposite we don’t know if we would appeal. We have been paying legal fees with donations. They are powerful, have lots of money.”

Gomez Daly said the challenge was not against Rowe. It was an act of demanding transparency, he said. Rowe could be elected by voters, but that does not change the fact that the board violated the law during her appointment, he said.

Rowe is one of five candidates seeking the seat for the Third District supervisor in San Bernardino County. Other candidates are Kaisar Ahmed, Karen Ickes, Latron Lester and Eddie Tejeda.

The Third District represents one of the largest districts in the country, spanning from the Mojave basin to the mountain communities and from Barstow to the valley communities.

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