County clerk hope is set to lose lawsuit against Registrar of Electors over ballot label

Jordan Marks, posing with an endorser, wanted his ballot nomination to be
Jordan Marks, posing with an endorser, wanted his designation on the ballot to be “Assessor Taxpayer Advocate”. Picture via Facebook

The Republican-endorsed nominee for San Diego County Assessor, Recorder and Clerk campaigned with signs posing as a taxpayer advocate. No problem.

Preliminary decision in the trial of Jordan Marks. (PDF)

But the 31-year-old jobseeker, lawyer Jordan Zev Marks, also wanted his voting designation to be “Assessor Taxpayer Advocate”.

No, said county registrar of voters Cynthia Paes. So Marks sued to make it happen.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Keri Katz is expected to side with Paes and tell Marks he’ll have to settle for another Paes-approved voting label — “Chief Deputy Assessor.”

Marks — whose Nov. 8 opponent is former San Diego City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Barbara Bry — is represented by Guillermo “Gil” Cabrera (himself a former candidate — for San Diego City Attorney in 2016).

On August 18, Cabrera filed a complaint for a so-called writ of peremptory warrant arguing that an “error is about to occur in the printing of a ballot.”

He wrote: “Release of the ballot with the disputed and unlawful designation of the ballot contained therein will cause irreparable harm to the voting public and the petitioner…for which damages would be insufficient.”

But Katz, who granted a “priority” hearing at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, issued an interim ruling Wednesday that denied his request to be tagged Assessor Taxpayer Advocate.

Katz agreed with the county registrar of voters.

“The court finds [Paes] establishes a high likelihood that a reasonably prudent voter will be confused by the term “taxpayer advocate” because the term does not identify the taxpayers for whom [Marks] is a lawyer,” Katz wrote in a three-page filing.

Although Marks says he is “taxpayers’ advocate for the assessor,” Katz continued, “such a role is not conveyed by the term ‘taxpayers’ advocate.’”

Duties of County Assessor, Recorder, County Clerk (PDF)

Thus, she said there is a “substantial likelihood” that her use of the term would confuse voters about Marks’ profession, vocation or occupation.

In fact, Marks works for the current clerk, Ernest Dronenburg Jr., who, at 79, is retiring at the end of his term in January 2023 after 12 years on the job.

In early May, Dronenburg promoted Marks to deputy chief assessor/clerk/county clerk.

Jordan Marks’ lawsuit against Registrar of Electors Cynthia Paes. (PDF)

A county announcement said Marks, with the office for nearly five years, “ensured taxpayer fairness, provided education to a variety of community and business organizations in the county, built community partnerships to advance office programs (DVETS, FBN, HOEX, Proposition 19 reforms, and commercial property filings, etc.), helped improve office processes and customer service for taxpayers, briefed the media on key events office and reviewed legislative proposals and new laws for effective implementation.

He added: “Jordan will continue to lead the Office of the Taxpayers Advocate in its new role and take on new responsibilities in the [office].”

Marks replaced Rolf Bishop, 73, who pleaded guilty in May to violating conflict of interest laws – recommending that a contractor hire his wife’s company to work on county projects. His sentencing is September 29.

On August 23, Dronenburg, a fellow Republican, fought for his potential successor, telling the court that Marks was a licensed appraiser, “and as such qualified and performs appraisals within the scope of his duties. Much of [his] duties and… professional activities include defending the interests of taxpayers. As such, “Assessor Taxpayer Advocate” is a fair and accurate description of [his] work.”

Paes said she could not comment on ongoing litigation. Bry and Cabrera also did not comment.

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