The Coalinga City Council has filed a lawsuit against Fresno County in an attempt to void a controversial election result that cost dozens of city employees their jobs.
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 14 in Fresno County Superior Court, alleges patients of Coalinga State Hospital voted illegally in the city’s November election. The Bee first reported in November that a group of patients at the hospital, which houses about 950 sexually violent predators and 300 mentally disordered offenders, had organized to vote against a one-cent sales tax that would allow the city to maintain its police officer and firefighter staffing levels.
The sales tax measure failed by just 37 votes, 582-545. The city claims most of the 304 voters registered at the hospital voted against the measure. It asserts these votes should not have been counted, saying state election codes prohibit anyone who doesn’t live within the city limits from voting in a municipal election.
Hospital patients are technically residents of the county they lived in before their arrest, the lawsuit says, so they should not have been allowed to vote in Coalinga.
A spokesman for Fresno County said he could not comment on pending litigation. The two sides will meet for a hearing April 16.
Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said in November that Coalinga had annexed the state-owned hospital. This allowed the city to significantly increase its population. Larger populations make cities more attractive to outside businesses.
A recent change to California state law relaxed voting rules for offenders on probation or under post-release supervision.