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Nevada County pushes back on fire tax in court docs

Attorneys for Nevada County in court documents have slammed arguments against the Measure V fire prevention tax, saying that a judge should toss a move to change the ballot initiative because it wasn’t filed on time.

A court filing this week states that Audrey Pruett, represented by her husband, attorney Barry Pruett, failed to file his petition within a legal 10-day deadline. That alone should be enough for a Superior Court judge to deny the petition.

“Even if the petition was timely, which it is not, (the county) should still prevail,” the court filling states. “Petitioner has failed to show, with any evidence, let along the ‘clear and convincing’ evidence required under the Elections Code, that any of the challenged election materials are false, misleading, or otherwise violate the law.”

A court hearing is scheduled for today on the issue in Nevada County Superior Court. A decision must occur by Tuesday, as Wednesday is the deadline for the company that will print the ballots.

Supervisors have said the tax revenue would go toward roadside vegetation abatement, homeless outreach and more green waste drop-off events each year.

At issue are arguments by Audrey Pruett that Measure V — which, if passed, would impose a half-cent sales tax in the county — should be a special tax, not a general one.

A general tax requires only a simple majority to pass, and is the option the Board of Supervisors chose when it put the question on the ballot. A special tax requires a two-thirds vote.

Audrey Pruett has argued in court documents that the ballot question states specific purposes on which money would be spent, which means it must be a special tax.

“In so doing, petitioner not only ignores the plain language of the ordinance, she also ignores the language in the ballot label that explicitly states that Measure V is ‘for general government use,’” county attorneys state.

County attorneys also dispute Pruett’s claim that the symbol “¢”, instead of “%”, on the ballot question isn’t accurate. Additionally, they state the allegation that the tax would raise only $9.5 million a year, not the $12 million officials claim, is incorrect.

“This is nonsense,” county attorneys say of the symbol argument. “The ‘¢’ symbol is universally known and recognized.”

Concerning the argument the tax won’t garner $12 million annually, county attorneys say Audrey Pruett provided no evidence to show that her “simple math” accurately reflects the revenue raised.

Barry Pruett is the attorney who represented three people who in January were accused of forcing their way into the elections office when it was closed to the public. A judge issued a restraining order against one of those people.

Pruett also contributed to Americans for Good Government, which paid for an attack mailer against Natalie Adona, then-candidate for county assistant clerk-recorder. Pruett has said he contributed in order to better inform Nevada County voters of the truth.

Adona won her race in June.

Alan Riquelmy is the managing editor of The Union. He can be reached at ariquelmy@theunion.com or 530-477-4249

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