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After months of discord and accusations of political maneuvering, the Petaluma City Council's recent vote to merge two planning boards into one — removing all but three of the 12 sitting members — appeared to put an end to the controversy.

But on Monday, three planning commissioners fighting their ouster from the volunteer jobs notified the city they are not done yet. In response, city officials called a special meeting — set for 5 p.m. today — to take another vote on it all.

Meanwhile, the "reconstituted" planning commission is set to meet tonight for the first time.

A letter faxed Monday evening to City Hall on behalf of Spence Burton, Kathleen Miller and Jack Rittenhouse III said the group will challenge the council's actions on several grounds.

One of those includes the way the Nov. 2 council meeting was interrupted by a former city councilman who wanted to speak about budget cuts after the public comment segment was over, Burton said.

As Mayor Pam Torliatt banged the gavel to quiet former councilman Bryant Moynihan, she "adjourned" the meeting and she and several council members left the dais. City staff members began packing up their belongings and after a few minutes, most of the perplexed audience left City Hall.

After Moynihan left, Torliatt returned to her seat and reconvened the meeting. The council finished its budget discussion and at nearly 11 p.m., made its controversial reappointments to the "reconstituted" planning commission.

At the time, City Attorney Eric Danly "confirmed" with Torliatt that she had actually "recessed" the meeting, not "adjourned" it.

Danly said Monday that the mayor simply used the wrong word and only halted the meeting to regain decorum.

Burton said the difference may mean any actions the council took after the "adjournment" are invalid. The state's open meetings law may have been violated because the public wasn't properly notified of the items taken up after the council returned.

"It would kill two things," he said, "All of the budget recommendations to the city manager and the planning commission appointments. All of that has to be voided."

City Manager John Brown, upon receiving the faxed letter, polled council members about whether to hold another meeting to address the issue, Mayor Pam Torliatt said.

"In an abundance of caution, he just wanted to ensure that we didn't have any issues for the new planning commission to deal with," she said. "We want to make sure we have a real clear process."

She said that the concern is that any actions taken by the "new" planning commission — which meets two hours later — be legitimate and lawful.

Councilman Mike Healy — who opposed the original decision to remove the sitting commissioners —called the developments "a comedy of errors."

He said, "Now they're going to re-fire them a third time, and hope it sticks this time."

Burton said the challenge is less to regain his seat on the planning commission as to "point more to the incompetence" of the council majority.

The trio's attorney, James Sansone, said his clients don't dispute the council can legislate what it wants, they just want the council to follow the rules.

"It's that you, the city, put specific rules in place, and you didn't follow your own rules," he said. "The city had to pay counsel to redraft the municipal code. So I believe the real losers are the taxpayers who have to pay for these mistakes."

The ousted commissioners may file formal complaints with the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office to investigate a violation of the state's Brown Act, which regulates public access to government meetings.

"The voters would have to think long and hard about whether they truly want their elected officials, when they get called on the carpet, to just change the law to benefit a private agenda," Sansone said. "Let the voters decide."

The planning commission, with its seven newly appointed members, is scheduled to meet tonight.

The city council's 4-3 majority of Torliatt, Teresa Barrett, David Glass and Tiffany Renee voted in five of their chosen applicants.

The council minority of David Rabbitt, Mike Harris and Mike Healy, lost on their top four candidates — including the three who filed suit.

A sixth candidate was chose unanimously. The seventh member has been Barrett.

The council decided in June, on a 4-3 vote, to disband the existing planning commission and architectural review boards and combine them into one.

The majority couched the issue as one of efficiency; the minority characterized it as a political sleight of hand to install the majority's chosen candidates before the sitting members' terms were up.

Rabbitt, who exchanged words with Glass as the council meeting was breaking up, said Monday that challenging the vote was likely futile.

"It's probably just postponing the inevitable," he said. "It's hard to move on from the city's perspective when you do that. We really need to clean up our act, get it together and move forward."