Hector Becerra, Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2007
A battle over the integrity of the election process is coming to a head this week in Lynwood, where the City Council has defied the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder and refused to set a date for a recall election targeting four of its members.
The registrar-recorder’s office concluded in June that there were enough signatures on recall petitions to force a special election for the four officials, two of whom were recently indicted on public corruption charges.
But when Lynwood’s elected city clerk tried to certify the recall petition, the City Council voted to strip her of all election duties, appointing its own election official to take up the matter.
The city clerk gave the petitions to the Sheriff’s Department, which has rejected the City Council request to review the documents.
The county registrar-recorder has set its own recall election date for Sept. 25, but the council is refusing to call the election. A Superior Court judge will hold a hearing today to consider a request by recall leaders to force the city to call an election.
City officials are firing back, arguing that the recall petition might include fraudulent signatures. Mayor Louis Byrd said the county was exceeding its authority.
Lynwood, a city of 100,000 south of Los Angeles, has had a contentious political history.
In April, five current and former council members were charged with using public funds to boost their salaries and pay personal expenses. Byrd and Councilman Fernando Pedroza, the two current council members indicted, vehemently denied the allegations.
The four council members targeted by the recall effort are Councilwoman Leticia Vasquez, Councilman Alfreddie Johnson Jr., Byrd and Pedroza. The only council member not being recalled is Maria Santillan, who frequently opposes the others on council votes.
Vasquez said the people pushing for the recall are failed political candidates bent on wresting control of the city. She also said the registrar-recorder’s office did not check the validity of the signatures.
Four years ago, Lynwood officials also resisted a recall, in a case against ex-Mayor Paul Richards, who subsequently was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison for corruption.
“They’re trotting out the same exact thing,” Woocher said. “Back then they also tried to get access to the signatures.”
Kareem Crayton, an assistant professor of election law and political science at USC, said the developments in Lynwood were bizarre. He said it was unusual that the registrar-recorder’s wishes would be defied without an apparent legal maneuver.