Talk about going over your character limit.
County officials in Santa Clara, Calif., are scrambling to fix a two-word mistake in the upcoming November ballot that could cost a Silicon Valley water district more than half a billion dollars.
The issue stems around wording for a measure that would allow the local water district to renew a $548 million tax to maintain the Northern California city's water supply, provide flood protection and reduce toxins in waterways, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
But the summary for the proposed measure was 77 words. Summaries can be only 75 words according to election laws.
When informed of the mistake, the Santa Clara Valley Water District quickly met and removed the words "as" and "No." (as in "number"). It approved the new language and sent the corrected summary to the election board.
Well, not exactly. Turns out the hastily called meeting to fix the problem may not have been publicized 24 hours before the board convened. California's open meetings law requires the notice. The board missed the deadline by less than an hour, the Mercury News reports.
But Santa Clara Valley Water District CEO Beau Goldie said in a statement, "The fact is the district posted the meeting notice outside the district headquarters in public view more than 24 hours prior to the special meeting. Faxes were sent to newspapers that had requested fax notification more than 24 hours prior to the special meeting."
Now the Silicon Valley Taxpayers' Association has sent a letter to the district threatening a lawsuit unless the measure is pulled off the ballot.
"We believe it's a violation," John Roeder, president of the taxpayers association, told the Mercury News.
Linda LeZotte, chairwoman of the water district board, said it would be a shame if the measure, which would also pay for trails and waterway restoration, were killed over a two-word mistake.
"That would be devastating to the water district," LeZotte told the Mercury News. "We were not changing the essence of the measure. We were removing two innocuous words that mistakenly put us over the word count. It was a minor technicality."
It's a minor technicality that now may have a half-billion-dollar impact.