Despite prodding from several citizens, the city of Murrieta will not take sides in a red-light camera lawsuit that—among others—names its city council and city clerk.
Three Murrieta city council members voted to "remain neutral" after meeting in closed session following Tuesday's regularly scheduled meeting, City Attorney Leslie Devaney reported.
Those who went into closed session included Mayor Doug McAllister and Council members Alan Long and Randon Lane; Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gibbs and Councilwoman Kelly Bennett were absent from the meeting and therefore did not vote in the matter.
It took about 30 minutes for them to reach a decision.
Devaney said they were confident that attorneys on both sides of the case were well versed in Fifth Amendment rights.
is an attempt to discredit the and ultimately get it removed from the November ballot based on the argument that cities do not have authority to ban them.
Murrieta City Council, Murrieta City Clerk Kay Vinson, Riverside County Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil and Riverside County Board of Supervisors are named as respondents in the court filing, while anti red-light camera petitioners Diana Serafin and Robin Nielson are named as the real persons of interest.
All parties were unrepresented, according to court records, but the nonprofit Pacific Justice Institute was reportedly going to take on the case on behalf of the Serafin and Nielson.
Attorney Charles H. Bell, Jr., of Sacramento-based Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk filed the suit June 5 on behalf of Murrieta resident Steve Flynn, who as a former Public Safety and Traffic Commissioner worked to initially bring the red-light cameras to Murrieta.
During public comments at Tuesday's meeting, several urged the city to defend the people's right to vote on the matter.
"Basically I am just here to ask you to ask you to honor our constitutional right to petition the government and let us vote on it," said resident Bob Russo.
Serafin, who garnered enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, urging the Registrar to take a stance for the people.
Ernie White, who serves on the Republican Party County Central Committee, told city council he believed American Traffic Solutions—the owner and operator of Murrieta's cameras—was behind the lawsuit.
"Why would a billion-dollar company sue two citizens of Murrieta?" White quizzed. "I want to say this to the citizen of Murrieta...You better wake up because American Traffic Solutions is coming for you...They want this off the ballot."
Murrieta resident Francis Burns urged the city to pay to defend its citizens.
"I would say if money is an issue you have found ways in the past," Burns said.
Another resident, Susan Kalina, questioned how much the city pays each month for the operation of the cameras located at Murrieta Hot Springs and Whitewood roads, Murrieta Hot Springs and Margarita roads and Nutmeg Street and Clinton Keith Road.
"No city account should have the right to approve $20,000 per month for three cameras," Kalina said.
An ex-parte hearing—meant to show cause in the lawsuit—had been scheduled for June 15 but was continued to 9:30 a.m. today in Riverside.