By Elizabeth Klinge

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento city leaders are dealing with chaos inside their own ranks.

A new legal ruling is making it unclear just which city council members represent large swaths of the city.
Tonight we’re getting answers on what impacts this could have– and how the problem was uncovered.

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Sacramento’s new city council districts causing confusion inside city hall.

“This is insane,” Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby said.

“This just needs to be clarified right away,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said.

Last year, for the first time, an independent public commission re-drew council districts as a result of new census numbers – and the lines were dramatically different, putting many neighborhoods in new districts. In December, the city announced that the changes took effect immediately.

“I started getting forwarded emails right away from a district I didn’t know,” Councilmember Katie Valenzuela said.

But it also created controversy.

“The comment that I got most frequently was ‘Wait, I voted for this person and now you’re telling me another person’s going to represent me? That’s not right,’ ” Councilmember Jeff Harris said.

This week, city officials flip-flopped and said councilmembers are likely bound by their old district lines.

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“This is an unprecedented question,” said City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood.

Wood, who issued the opinion, is now in the hot seat.

“Did we communicate that in error back in December?” Steinberg asked Wood.

“Was it communicated in error? I’d have to go back and see the communications,” Wood responded.

“It’s not fair to the constituents who think they’ve had one representative for the past four months and it turns out they’ve had another,” Steinberg said.

The issue was only uncovered when residents filed a recall petition against district four representative Valenzuela.

“Which voters were qualified to vote in a recall? Is it the old district four or the new district four?” said. There was ambiguity. They didn’t know.”

So how long has this redistricting uncertainty gone unresolved?

“What we’ve been doing over the last four months is what the city has apparently done for decades,” Steinberg said.

The city attorney is now saying it could take weeks to make a final determination.

“Let’s just put it this way: in the midst of all the other things we’re dealing with, this was surprising,” Steinberg said.

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There’s also concern some neighborhoods would have no representation until after the next election while other parts of town could have dual representation. A final legal decision is expected by the end of the month.

Elizabeth Klinge