A sharply divided City Council voted Monday to bring city elections in line with state contests in a move that will give three council members an extra seven months in office.
Set against the backdrop of continuing political turmoil that surrounds the recall campaign against Councilman Robert A. Curtis, the council argued bitterly for 2 1/2 hours before voting 3 to 2 to postpone the next city election until November, 1990.
The new law passed by the council also orders a ballot measure in November, 1990, asking voters if they prefer future city elections to be held in June or November.
Originally set for April, 1990, the rescheduled election gives Council members Norman P. Murray, Christian W. Keena and Victoria C. Jaffe seven additional months in office. All three voted for the consolidation.
In voting for the change, the council members accused Curtis of attacking consolidation to help ward off a possible recall.
"I resent Mr. Curtis trying to find an issue a week in order to stay in front of the voters," said Jaffe.
Murray accused Curtis and Mayor William S. Craycraft, a political ally of Curtis, of causing dissension in the council.
"In all my years, I've never seen the minority (council faction) play political games and hamstring the council like this," Murray said of Curtis and Craycraft.
Curtis has repeatedly been accused by recall proponents of being a divisive element in the year-old council. Curtis, however, said he would not support the election change but advocated putting the question to the voters next year.
"I would prefer that people have the right to vote," he said. "Let the voters of Mission Viejo decide whether they want to change the complexion of the council."
The councilman charged that opponents supported the date change to allow themselves more time in office. Curtis jeered when Jaffe proposed the successful compromise measure asking voters to choose between June and November for city elections.
"This is almost comical," he said, pointing out that voters will be asked when to consolidate elections after November, 1990, when council members will have already served an extra seven months.
Consolidation supporters on the council were criticized for a conflict of interest by Mission Viejo resident John Wagner.
"They want to increase their term of office by seven months; what a great idea," he said. "I wish I could do the same thing."
Both Keena and Jaffe denied the charge.
"I have been involved (in civic affairs) since 1983. Seven months does not make a difference to me," said Jaffe.
Pointing to his bare ring finger, Keena blamed council responsibilities partially for his recent divorce.
"This is not what I would consider an ideal situation on a personal level," he said.
Keena said the consolidation would save money and be more convenient for voters.
A staff report said the registrar of voters office estimated savings of 67 cents per voter if Mission Viejo combined with 24 other Orange County cities in holding elections in November rather than April.
Only three other Orange County cities--Irvine, Dana Point and Seal Beach--conduct elections on dates other than primary or general election days.