CLAYTON -- The City Council took the first step Tuesday in asking the state's chief law officer to decide if its members can also sit on the new Clayton Valley Charter High School board.

The decision to ask the advice of Attorney General Kamala Harris was unanimous, but the five-member council was torn on whether ultimately it would be wise for a council member to wear both hats.

"We could be opening up a Pandora's box," said Mayor Howard Geller.

The state's advice would be a second -- and final -- opinion. Already, City Attorney Malathy Subramanian advised the council that the two offices are incompatible, as defined by the state's government code.

A politician who holds incompatible offices must forfeit the first seat held, which in this case would mean a Clayton council member on the school board might lose his or her council seat.

That was enough to give pause to Councilman David Shuey, who wanted to join the school board. Shuey and Vice Mayor Joe Medrano each have children attending the charter school and were instrumental in its creation.

The charter school opened this year after a contentious fight to break away from the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. It now is its own entity and has an executive board with representatives for parents, teachers and the community.

The members are elected by their respected group. For example, the parents who are on the board were elected by parents at the school.

Shuey, who brought the question to the council Tuesday, is proposing that council members fill a community or parent position on the board if they have the state's blessing.

Shuey said it will add balance to the board.

"There (are) different agendas depending on whether you are a parent or a teacher," he said Tuesday. "I would hate for us to lose some of the community focus and community desires."

Geller and Councilwoman Julie Pierce were less enthusiastic. Geller said it could open the door to Concord council members wanting to be on the board. And Pierce and Geller said they preferred creating a subcommittee of the council to meet regularly with the charter school board.

A similar effort to meet with the Mt. Diablo school board has failed, Geller said.

"I'm not sure I would want a council member to fill" a spot on the charter board, said Pierce, who said she could envision times where the two jobs would conflict.

Tuesday's vote begins a slow-moving process to reach the Attorney General's Office. The City Attorney's Office must contact a local state legislative member who has the authority to request an opinion from the state office. It could take up to six months before an opinion is rendered, officials said.

David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.

---