Ernest Dronenburg, current San Diego County Clerk, is running for reelection in 2014, despite the commotion he caused this past July when he challenged the state supreme court's decision that overturned Prop 8, the state law that banned same-sex marriages.
On October 28, the county clerk submitted the paperwork needed to kickstart his campaign.
This upcoming election may be much harder for Dronenburg. His decision to challenge the court's reversal of Prop 8 didn't win him any popularity contests. Dissenters quickly turned to Facebook, creating a "Recall San Diego County Clerk Ernest Dronenburg" page. That page is still up and running. Currently, 661 people have shown their support for ousting him from office.
His efforts to halt same-sex marriages from taking place were paid for by Prop 8 attorney and lead counsel for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, Charles LiMandri, according to an October 28 "Behested Payment Report" Dronenburg filed with the county.
The form reveals LiMandri donated $11,240 in legal work to Dronenburg and the county to pay for "services required for the drafting and filing of a legal brief with the State Supreme Court." Dronenburg described the legal work as "filing legal brief raising questions and asking for guidance."
Dronenburg withdrew the county's legal challenge to same-sex marriage just days after LiMandri filed it. According to an August 2 statement, he did so because another suit had already been filed.
"The questions I asked are also a part of the [Hollingsworth v. O’Connell and Brown case]. At this point my case could be considered duplicative and slow the process. We need to be able to remove the uncertainty in this area as soon as possible. Given the fact the Hollingsworth is now under review, I cannot comment further.”
In a message left by Dronenburg on November 5, he stated, "The county owed Mr. LiMandri for his legal work. He, however, decided to donate his services and work pro-bono. Although I am listed as the beneficiary, it is actually the county general fund that will benefit from this gift."
On October 14, the Fair Political Practices Commission sent a letter to Dronenburg, advising him of his responsibility to report the in-kind donation from LiMandri. The letter reads as follows:
You are the County Clerk of San Diego County, an elected position. Part of your official duties include issuing marriage licenses. Following the United States' Supreme Court's decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry, 570 U.S. _ _ (2013) and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal's lifting of its stay banning same sex marriages in California, which together effectively legalized same sex marriage in California, you requested legal representation by the county of San Diego for the purpose of limiting this ruling. Through the requested attorney, you intended to file a writ of mandamus against Governor Jerry Brown, and others, requesting that the California Supreme Court order the Governor not to enforce the State Registrar directive to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. The county declined to provide legal representation.
You then arranged with the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund ("the Fund") to provide all legal services at no charge to you or the County with the caveat that any final court award of attorney fees would go to the Fund. Charles S. LiMandri of the Fund, the attorney acting for you in your official capacity as petitioner, prepared the writ and all subsequent filings between July 19, 2013, and August 14, 2013. Before the California Supreme Court could rule on the writ, you voluntarily requested dismissal of writ of mandate, which the court granted on August 14, 2013. There was consequently no motion for attorney fees, nor was there any obligation for you or the County to pay the Fund or Mr. LiMandri for legal services rendered. The total worth of legal services provided, even though pro bono, was $11,240.
Legal services provided for a governmental purpose at no cost to a governmental agency at your behest are a reportable behested payment if the value exceeds $5,000 in a calendar year. A behested payment must be reported on Form 803 within 30 days.