HUNTINGTON PARK — A recall effort against City Councilmen Jack W. Parks and Thomas E. Jackson has been stalled for the second time, after the city clerk ruled a petition insufficient because it contained typographical errors.
City Clerk Marilyn Boyette said the recall petition--which must be certified by the clerk before it can be circulated--had misspelled words, improperly indented paragraphs and left some words not capitalized.
The petition was returned to proponents Joe M. Ortiz and Guadalupe Levy for corrections last week and a newly corrected one was refiled on Monday, Boyette said. The clerk has 10 days to review the petition and decide whether to certify it for circulation. If certified, proponents must obtain 1,800 signatures within 90 days. The clerk then has 30 days to check the validity of the signatures, which, if approved, would force a special election.
The first petition was returned earlier this month because it didn't follow the format required under the Elections Code, Boyette said. The petition--which consists of a notice of intent to recall, the rebuttal of the councilmen, spaces for signatures and a declaration by the person circulating the petition--must contain, word for word, what was published in the notice of intent and the answers of the councilmen, she said.
Some Local Discretion
Oliver Cox, an attorney with the secretary of state in Sacramento, said that although there are specific statutory requirements that must be met, local filing officers have some discretion in deciding the final form of a recall petition.
"We've rejected petitions because words were misused or misspelled," Cox said. In cases where the statute is specific about the kind of wording a petition must contain, he said, "grammatical errors are absolutely critical."
Ortiz said Monday that the setback is minor and he vowed to "keep right on going" with the effort. Levy was out of town and could not be reached for comment.
The proponents claim in the petition that Jackson and Parks are "insensitive to the wishes of the people" and that rapid redevelopment by the city has contributed to a shortage of senior citizen housing. "As far as I'm concerned, they've been there too long," Ortiz said.
In their rebuttal, Jackson and Parks said the charges are "frivolous" and "phony" and they defend the city's record in attracting at least three new senior citizen developments.
Councilmen Visit Ortiz
Ortiz said Jackson and Parks personally delivered their rebuttals to his home and talked to him for about an hour. Ortiz, who said the councilmen wanted to know why he was leading the recall, said the visit may have been an attempt to get him to "drop the case. I imagine that's the point. What's the point of visiting me?"
But Jackson said he wanted to ask Ortiz to identify a "legitimate reason for recalling me. If he had a problem with me, why didn't he give me the courtesy of responding to problems about me?
"My position is, if the only thing they have against me is that I've been there 18 years, the whole thing is ludicrous," Jackson said, adding that he may have been targeted because he is Anglo. "My name doesn't have to be Gonzales in order for me to do my job. This whole effort is nonsense."
Jackson praised Huntington Park's redevelopment efforts and said the city has been actively investigating police brutality allegations. He said he believes the real instigator of the recall is Alan Kartsman, an unsuccessful council candidate in the April election. Jackson said he also believes that Jesse Duran, president of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, is behind the effort.
Both have denied the charges. But Duran said he and about 20 other members of LULAC will join in the recall effort once the petition is certified.
Petitions to Congressman
Jackson is also the target of a series of petitions that have been sent to Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins' Washington office. Jackson works as a field representative in the congressman's Huntington Park office. Hawkins' district covers South Gate, Huntington Park, part of Downey and South-Central Los Angeles.
The petitions, which contain about 150 signatures, raise concerns about the recall effort, Jackson's role in the congressman's office and services to Latinos. They ask Hawkins to take a stand on the large number of police brutality cases in the city.
Mark Molli, a special assistant to Hawkins, said the recall is a "local issue" and it would be "inappropriate for (Hawkins) to intervene."
Hawkins has sent each person who signed the petitions a letter explaining that the recall effort has not affected services his office offers, such as Social Security and Medicare casework, help with federal Civil Service problems and providing legislative information to constituents, Molli said.
Pat Benson, the congressman's Los Angeles office director, said Hawkins met with the Huntington Park LULAC chapter in March to hear some of its concerns, including serving Latinos. Benson met with the group again in May about police brutality allegations.
Help for Latinos
"We take things like that very seriously. We're happy to work with people who think they are victims of that problem," Molli said, adding that the congressman asked members to "keep him apprised of the situation."
Benson said one of the things that has resulted from the meetings is that the Hawkins' Huntington Park office put up a sign for Latino constituents to call a number in Los Angeles if they need services in Spanish. A bilingual staff member is available in Hawkins' Los Angeles district office.
Jackson said the petitions to Hawkins and the recall effort are "pure and simple harassment" and an attempt by certain individuals to "take our job."