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Lawsuit challenges controller candidate's qualifications

 

The question of whether one of two candidates for the San Mateo County controller's post is legally qualified for the office is likely to be settled by a judge on March 20.

Joe Galligan, a former Burlingame councilman and mayor who is running for county controller in the June 3 election, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court on March 11 questioning whether opponent Juan Raigoza meets any of the four legal requirements necessary to hold the office. Mr. Raigoza was deemed qualified by county Elections Officer Mark Church, who is also named in the lawsuit.

Judge George Miram ruled on March 12 that Mr. Raigoza must submit documentation of his qualifications to Mr. Church so that the elections official "may properly exercise (his) discretion and determine whether Mr. Raigoza is qualified" to hold the post; alternatively, Mr. Raigoza may argue his case in court.

Mr. Raigoza's campaign manager, Alex Tourk, said the candidate will comply with Judge Miram's ruling, and "we feel quite confident that he will be shown to qualify."

State law requires a controller to meet at least one of four qualifications: he or she must be a certified public accountant; must have a bachelor's degree in accounting and serve within the last five years in a senior fiscal management position; must be certificated as a professional internal auditor, with a minimum of 16 college semester units, or their equivalents, in accounting, auditing, or finance; or, must have served at a specified level as a county auditor for a continuous period of at least three years.

Mr. Raigoza has been the county's assistant controller since 2012. "Juan is very good at the job that he does," Mr. Galligan said. "He's been head of payroll and head of IT ... but he answered to the fiscal officer, which means he did not perform fiscal duties."

But Mr. Tourk said Mr. Raigoza, has "multiple years of senior fiscal management." In his 13 years with the controller's office, "he's led two separate divisions in a senior management role," Mr. Tourk told the Almanac.

Mr. Galligan, a certified public accountant, said he was reluctant to file the lawsuit, but was told by the county counsel's office that it was his only recourse because the elections officer is not required to verify the information in the sworn statement a candidate must file before qualifying for the ballot. Likening the lawsuit to ungracious behavior on a first date, he said, "It's not the first impression I'd want to make with someone I might be working with."

Deputy County Counsel Glenn Levy noted that Judge Miram's ruling didn't address the merits of Mr. Galligan's challenge. At the 2 p.m. March 20 court hearing before Judge Joseph Scott, "all parties will be permitted to provide legal arguments and evidence," Mr. Levy said in an email.

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