The Sacramento Bee carried a story today about a Judge's ruling against the City of Sacramento due to the bias of a City Councilman who voted against a developer who had appealed his project to the City Council after the city's Planning Commission had denied approval of the project. The Judge determined that emails and text messages from the Councilman to the neighborhood association opposing the project were unfair and biased, a no-no when the elected officials sit as the quasi-judicial body hearing an appeal of their Planning Commission's decision. He instructed the Sacramento City Council to re-hear the appeal. Now the City of Sacramento is weighing its options.
"In quasi-judicial hearings, council members are supposed to act like judges who are hearing an appeal. They cannot advocate beforehand for one side or the other, as they are allowed to do in most council hearings that are not based on an appeal."Tony Bizjak, "Judge rules councilman likely was biased, overturns vote denying Crocker Village gas station", www.sacbee.com/news/local/article192761149.html
OK, so what does this mean for us denizens of the UnCity? The Judge's decision has not been appealed to a higher court, hence it isn't "citable", which is a standard for making other jurisdictions to behave accordingly. But it is nonetheless instructive when you consider that the decisions of low-level designated decision-making bodies in Sacramento County are often appealed to the Board of Supervisors. Some recent examples include the Anton Arcade Apartments, the Winco liquor license, and the forthcoming Arden Creek Town Center appeal. As the article stated, it might be legal for a Supervisor to make a biased decision (e.g. clearly favoring a campaign-donor friend in the face of constituent opposition) when the Supervisors are the first level of decision-making, but not when they sit as an appellate body. Let's see what happens when the Arden Creek project goes before the Board as an appeal item on January 23rd.