Last October, Fair Elections Portland filed a lawsuit on behalf of myself and nine other registered voters. The lawsuit challenged the City Council’s earlier decision to certify our citizens initiative to establish and fund a clean elections program as a charter revision rather than as a charter amendment.

The council’s decision was made on the advice of corporation counsel Danielle Chuhta, who indicated that a decision to the contrary would be subject to lawsuit from anyone contending the council’s exclusive budget-making authority cannot be constrained in any way. When asked who might file such a lawsuit, Chuhta replied, with a smile, that she might have to if no one else did.

Isn’t it ironic, then, that Chuhta recently filed a motion to dismiss the Fair Elections Portland lawsuit entirely, claiming that the City Council has the exclusive right to decide whether proposed charter changes are amendments or revisions and that the councilors’ decision in this regard cannot be challenged in court?

Suffice it to say that Chuhta’s previous legal advice to the City Council is directly contradicted by her own arguments to the Superior Court, which will be heard Thursday in the Cumberland County Superior courtroom of Justice MaryGay Kennedy. We hope and trust that Justice Kennedy will throw out the city’s motion to dismiss, and then quickly proceed to judging our lawsuit on its merits.

Phil Steele

Portland

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