A Mountain View City Council candidate is going to have to change his ballot designation after being challenged over his use of the title "retired lieutenant colonel" on the November ballot.
The city clerk upheld the challenge mounted by John Schaeffer after "investigation and extensive research."
"Mr. Unangst will have to choose another ballot designation or not have one at all," said City Clerk Lorrie Brewer in an email.
The challenge is not because there's anything false about Unangst's story of leading troops in Vietnam and being honored with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.
"That was my rank at the time of my retirement from the military in 1996 after 10 years of active duty and 18 years in the (Army) reserves," Unangst explained in an email. "Evidently, state law requires a retired candidate to use their most recent employment on a ballot."
The law means that Unangst now plans to call himself a "retired aerospace engineer" as he retired from Lockeed Martin in 2011.
"I have no idea who John Schaeffer is, where he lives, or what motivated him to file this challenge," said Unangst.
Shaeffer tipped the Voice to the issue, later describing himself as "just a concerned watchdog who knows the election has high stakes. We have nine great candidates and it's important they all follow the rules."
Unangst said the state law seems unfair. He points to a section of federal law that seems contradictory: "A retired officer of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps may bear the title and wear the uniform of his retired grade."
City Attorney Jannie Quinn was not available for comment by press time about her analysis of state and federal laws. City spokesperson Shonda Ranson confirmed that a state law was preventing Unangst's chosen ballot designation.
"The successful challenge sets a horrible precedent for all retired veterans in California," Unangst said. "If this is the case, then any veteran who retires from the military, whether active or reserve, and then works in another occupation cannot then use their military rank on a ballot in California."
"While my first inclination is to fight back against what I see as an unfair denial of my rights as a retired military officer and the setting of a very bad precedent, I have to maintain focus on the voters and the unprecedented problems facing the city." Unangst said.