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Sentinel staff report–
The City of Citrus Heights has been ordered to pay nearly $15,000 to cover legal costs incurred by Councilwoman Porsche Middleton when she sued the city while running as a candidate for City Council last year.
Sacramento County Superior Court documents filed at the end of April, show a tentative ruling ordering the city to pay a total of $14,783.56 to cover Middleton’s attorney fees and legal costs. The ruling was made final on April 26, 2019.
The court listed a breakdown of the fees as 55.5 hours of attorney time at a rate of $250 per hour, with an additional $731.06 “rush filing fee” and a $177.50 administrative fee.
Middleton filed suit last year after the city denied her title of planning commissioner being used on the official election ballot. Middleton, then serving as a planning commissioner, sued and won the right to use her title on the election ballot. She later won election to the City Council in November.
Asked for comment on Friday, Middleton told The Sentinel in an email that it was “unfortunate I had to seek a legal resolution for the right to use my title on the ballot, a right granted to all others in their respective jurisdictions. Thankfully the law was on my side.”
The city manager’s office did not respond to an opportunity for comment on Friday, but the city had argued that Middleton — although serving as a Citrus Heights Planning Commissioner since being appointed in 2017 — did not qualify to have her ballot designation listed as such.
The city argued the position did “not require a principal amount of an individual’s time” and therefore was not one of her “principal professions, vocations, or occupations,” as required by the Elections Code for ballot designations.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner disagreed with the city and sided with Middleton, who had argued that her title as planning commissioner was the most accurate “descriptive identifier.” In court filings, Middleton’s attorney, Brian Hildreth, said her responsibilities on the planning commission “unquestionably” qualified as a principal activity, stating that in 2016 Middleton had closed a consulting business she operated and was spending about 20 hours per week as part of her duties as a commissioner.
Some have disputed Middleton’s assertion. In letters to the editor last September, a current planning commissioner and another former commissioner both questioned Middleton’s assertion and said their duties on the planning commission only required up to 10-20 hours per month.
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