The Second District Court of Appeal recently ruled that independent candidate Steve Pappas must pay Santa Barbara County’s current 3rd District Supervisor, Doreen Farr, $528,657.50 in attorney fees after challenging the results of their 2008 runoff for the title.
Pappas, a small-business owner from Santa Ynez, lost the election by about 800 votes and subsequently sued Farr for allegations of voter fraud. Though Pappas lost the initial election fraud lawsuit, Farr then unsuccessfully sued him for attorney fees. Though Farr lost that lawsuit, the Court of Appeal turned over the decision, ordering Pappas to repay Farr’s paid legal fees. Pappas then proceeded to contest the Court of Appeal’s decision, which was ultimately upheld in the most recent ruling.
According to Judge P. J. Gilbert’s Sept. 26 opinion, there was absolutely no factual basis to Pappas’s claim of voter fraud in 2008.
“Pappas acknowledges that had Farr not defended the election contest, he, not Farr, would be county supervisor today. What Pappas does not acknowledge is that he failed to prove even a single vote was unlawfully cast in the election,” the court opinion read. “The public has a profound interest in making sure those who lawfully win elections are able to take the office to which they were elected.”
In the opinion, Gilbert said Pappas also made unrealistic calculations about Farr’s compensation for her role as county supervisor.
“He calculated Farr’s total personal financial benefit from holding office for one term to be $504,034. This amount consists of $337,956 in gross salary over four years; a pension of $6,800 per year over a life span of twenty-one years for a gross payment of $143,000; plus $23,034 in medical and dental benefits,” the court opinion stated. “Pappas ignored taxes, discounting the pension payments to their present value, and personal costs of campaigning and holding office. Pappas also ignored that Farr must work at her official duties and forgo other employment opportunities. It is obvious $504,034 greatly exceeds the actual financial benefit Farr will receive. Pappas makes no effort to provide a more realistic calculation.”
Pappas’s recent campaign to win the supervisor position ended this spring when Farr won the election with about 55 percent of the votes.