In February of this year, Wirsing reviewed the bylaws of the University City Planning Group and discovered that appointed members can only serve until the next election. "That meant five more seats should have been open for election. So we wrote the planning group a nice letter saying this was probably an honest mistake, but nobody announced that these seats were available, and the five incumbents did not meet the registration requirement -- because two months before the election the candidate has to declare that he's going to run. And we said reappointing them is not acceptable. You've got to give other people a chance to participate. We suggest you just have a special election for these guys. They responded that they would consult the city attorney and get back to us."
The March meeting at Forum Hall in UTC was election night. But, after the voting, Ferguson moved to seal the ballot box until the city attorney could rule on a question of bylaws, which state that a nonpublic entity may not have more than one person on the planning group. Ferguson believed that UC Golden might qualify as a nonpublic entity, and therefore three of its four candidates were disqualified.
Wirsing contends that the nonpublic entity clause does not apply to his loose group of neighbors, which has no formal membership. "Really," he says, "that clause means a developer can't come in and fill a bunch of seats. It has no application to a political organization. So when he was finished and I raised my hand, 'Madame Chairman, I am from UC Golden, I would like to speak.' And Alice said, 'No, no public testimony on this,' and all of them voted for it.
"Then," Wirsing continues, "we moved to the appointed-seat issue. Now, there was a provision in the 1996 amendments to the bylaws that stated that if you were appointed to a seat, you don't serve the whole remainder of the term; you serve until the next election. Well, Ferguson then makes a motion, 'There was no official approval of the '96 amendments,' he said, 'so I think we are operating under the 1990 rules, and they don't require an election for the appointed seats.' But somebody from the city planning staff stands up and says, 'Well, our practice has not been to send you approval. We review the amendments, and as long as you don't hear from us, it is all good.' So there was a secondary motion from Bill Ferguson, 'Well, I move that they be reappointed.' The crowd wanted to speak to it, but no discussion was allowed. So the city planning staff stepped in and said, 'Well, you can reappoint them, but we don't think it is a good idea to avoid elections this way.' So they reappointed them and said, 'We will have special elections, and their appointments will only last until the special elections.' Somebody tried to object to the fact that the appointed people should not be voting on this motion. But that was ruled out of order, so the appointed people got to vote to reappoint themselves."
Between the March and April meetings of the University City Planning Group -- and after hundreds of e-mails, calls, and letters from UC Golden -- the city planning department, in a letter to concerned parties, rejected the notion that UC Golden is a nonpublic entity and recommended that the planning group hold special elections as soon as possible. Representatives of the city planning department and Councilman Peters's office attended the April 8 meeting. The first order of business was the question of UC Golden as public entity. "Unanimously," Wirsing says, "they dropped their investigation of UC Golden. Then they had to count the ballots. The next item was the appointed-seats question. One of the appointee guys said, 'There is no provision in the bylaws for a special election.' But they had a discussion about it, and they abandoned that idea and scheduled elections."
The last order of business was to announce results of the previous month's election. All four UC Golden candidates won. Wirsing grins from ear to ear. "A clean sweep."