ROSEMEAD — In a city where seven to 10 people usually run for the City Council, two incumbents almost got back into office this time without a fight.
With only 10 minutes left before the filing deadline on Jan. 30, Gil Gonzales, who ran unsuccessfully in the last two council elections, decided to challenge incumbents Gary Taylor and Louis Tury Jr.
"We were not expecting an election this time," said Taylor, 45, a construction supervisor who is seeking a fourth four-year term.
If Taylor and Tury, 47, the owner of a machine shop, had not been challenged by Gonzales, 43, owner of an auto body repair shop, the council would have appointed the incumbents rather than hold an election.
"This is the closest we've ever got to that procedure," said Ellen Poochigian, who has been city clerk for nine years.
Gonzales said he got into the race only because he thought he was being pressured not to run by Tury, who is serving as mayor under a system that rotates the job among council members every year, and Councilman Jay Imperial, who is not up for reelection.
Two days before the filing deadline, Gonzales said, he went to Tury's machine shop because he had heard that Tury wanted to talk to him.
At that time, Gonzales said, Tury told him: "I'd appreciate it if you waited until the next election. This is going to cost the taxpayers $30,000."
However, Tury, denied that he asked Gonzales not to run.
"He's a flat liar," said Tury, who said that although Gonzales did visit him at his machine shop, it was two weeks before the filing deadline, and at that time, Gonzales offered not to run if Tury would appoint him to the Planning Commission or the Traffic Commission. Tury said he refused and that was as far as the conversation went.
But Gonzales said that the conversation about an appointment took place six months ago and there was never any mention of the election.
Gonzales also said that Imperial visited his auto body shop about a week before the filing deadline and told him he would appreciate it if Gonzales would not run.
But Imperial denied the allegation, adding that the only thing he said about the election to Gonzales was that if he was going to run, he should be serious about it.
Imperial said that in the last two elections Gonzales "didn't run a very a strong campaign."
'Never Posted Signs'
"He only walked around a little, but never posted any signs, and I said if you are going to run, be serious about it," Imperial said.
Now that he is in the race, Gonzales has been campaigning against what he called the city's "reckless spending record." He said he had heard from a source who works for the city that Rosemead had received a bill for $100 for the purchase of cigars. Gonzales would not identify the source and said he had never seen the bill.
Tury said he knows of no such expenditure and recalled that the city offered cigars to legislators in 1979 after the city received a $100,000 reimbursement when the state eliminated a levy on business inventories.
'Traded a Few Cigars
"We traded a few cigars for $100,000 worth of help," Tury said.
City Manager Frank Tripepi said Rosemead, Paramount and Compton were the only cities in the state reimbursed for losses resulting from the repeal of the tax.
At times, Tripepi said, city officials might offer a state legislator a cigar after an official dinner, but that does not add up to $100. He added that an examination of city spending records dating back to 1979 showed no cigar purchase.
Gonzales also criticized council members for taking "too many pleasure trips" to Palm Springs.
But Tury said that members of the council and city officials go to Palm Springs only once a year, for a meeting of the California Contract Cities Assn., an organization of 58 cities that contract with Los Angeles County for municipal services such as police and fire protection.
'In a Little Motel'
"We don't even stay in the big hotel where the conference is. We stay in a little motel," Tury said, adding that the rooms run about $50 a night, considerably less than rates at the convention hotel.
Tury, who was born and reared in Rosemead, defended the city's spending record, noting that it had maintained a balanced budget for several years.
"We take in more money than we spend almost every year," he said.
Taylor agreed that spending had for the most part been modest, but spoke of some instances in which the city may have spent funds unnecessarily. He cited revenue from the half-cent transportation tax that was spent on bus stop improvements because the deadline for expenditures was near and, if unspent, the money might have had to be returned to the county.
"Sometimes council people get into a predicament they don't want to be in," he said.
Tury said he is emphasizing his track record as a councilman in his campaign.
He said that since he has been in office, about $23 million has been spent on public improvements and, as a result, the condition of streets has greatly been upgraded.