MONTEREY PARK — The county district attorney's office is reviewing complaints that fictitious signatures and unauthorized solicitors may have been used in the drive to recall three City Council members.
Steven A. Sowders, head deputy district attorney of the special investigations division, said he will determine by next week whether the allegations warrant a full-scale investigation.
"It's more than one or two. You can say multiple violations," Sowders said. "We would handle it just like a bad check case."
City Atty. Anthony Canzoneri, who asked that the district attorney's office review the complaints, refused to elaborate on the allegations or how they could affect the recall effort against council members Barry Hatch, Patricia Reichenberger and Cam Briglio.
Backers of the recall drive, however, described the allegations as "sabotage" and contended that many of the complaints were manufactured by supporters of the targeted council members.
"It's a smoke screen," said former Councilman David Almada, a leading recall proponent. "They'd like to do anything possible to discredit a grass-roots movement."
A special election could be held in May or June if petitions filed last month by the Assn. for Better Cityhood have been signed by at least 4,536 registered voters, representing 20% of the city's total registered voters.
Officials in the city clerk's office said they are still verifying the signatures, which totaled 6,856 against Hatch, 6,646 against Reichenberger and 5,473 against Briglio.
One supporter of Hatch and Reichenberger, former City Council candidate Frank J. Arcuri, said in an interview on Tuesday that he signed a "pen name" on the recall petitions against those two council members in an effort to see whether they were "going to be turned in as an actual signature."
Arcuri, a self-employed photographer and English-language activist, said that he used a pen name because he said the petitions did not contain the circulator's signature and he therefore did not believe they were legal documents.
"I wanted to see what was going to happen, if that (the pen name) was going to be turned in as an actual signature," said Arcuri, adding that his wife also has urged the district attorney's office to investigate the possibility of violations by the recall backers.
Reichenberger, who was elected to the council last April, said that she has little contact with Arcuri and did not know how or if he had signed the petitions.
She said she was primarily concerned about the dozens of calls she had received from residents complaining that they had been approached by petitioners whom the residents thought were from outside the city or who were not registered voters.
"I feel that this definitely does discredit the recall," Reichenberger said. "There are a lot of irregularities that we hope they find."
Hatch and Briglio, who was recently sworn in as mayor, could not be reached for comment.
Recall proponents have generally charged the three council members with racism and intolerance toward Monterey Park's ethnically mixed population.
Kevin Smith, a developer, served Hatch, Reichenberger and Briglio with recall notices last July accusing them of voting for a "racist resolution" on immigration, of blocking construction of housing for senior citizens and of reducing city revenues through "irresponsible" planning policies.
The targeted council members have generally maintained that the recall drive is really a "development issue" because of the council's recent efforts to control growth and reshape commercial development in the city.