Inglewood Mayor Ed Vincent has asked the city attorney to investigate whether City Council candidate Garland Hardeman, whom Vincent accuses of "carpetbagging," has violated any campaign laws.
Hardeman said he has done nothing wrong. He said the mayor, who supports Ervin (Tony) Thomas in the June 16 runoff, is trying to distract voters from the fact that he has been more active in Inglewood's affairs than Thomas.
Hardeman, a candidate for council District 4, insisted that he lives in the district but acknowledged that he moved there from District 2 shortly before declaring his candidacy.
Thomas could not be reached for comment.
City Atty. Howard Rosten, who is out of town all week, could not be reached for comment, and Inglewood law is murky on residency qualifications.
Jack Ballas, the assistant city attorney, said the City Charter calls for one year's residency in a district before filing to run for office. But the California Supreme Court overturned a similar provision in another city's charter 11 years ago, Ballas said.
The court ruled that cities may establish a 30-day residency requirement, Ballas said, but Inglewood has never changed its one-year provision.
Complicating the situation is a state Government Code provision, which the city must follow if it does not have a superseding law, that says a person only has to live and be registered to vote in the district. The provision does not give any time limit on residency.
"The whole thing depends upon whether, when the court said cities could impose a 30-day limit, that automatically adjusted our charter," Ballas said. He said a court interpretation might be required to decide that.
Hardeman changed his voter registration from a District 2 address to one in District 4 on Jan. 12, four days before taking out papers to run, according to documents on file with the county registrar's office. Hardeman filed the papers on Jan. 29. Vincent, speaking at a press conference in his City Hall office after Tuesday's council meeting, said he also wants the city attorney to determine whether Hardeman actually lives in District 4.
Hardeman, 30, continues to own the District 2 property where he lived since 1984, a condominium in the upscale Regent Court complex on West Regent Street. Real estate agents said units in the building sell for between $66,000 and slightly more than $100,000.
Hardeman, a Los Angeles police officer, said he moved into an apartment on East Arbor Vitae Street, about a quarter mile west of the Hollywood Park race track, in December. The apartment building, smaller and older than the condominium, is located behind a house.
A reporter went to the apartment Tuesday, and although no one was home it appeared to be lived in. A large house plant was in the front window along with a campaign poster. A doormat emblazoned with Michigan State University, Hardeman's alma mater, lay on the walkway.
Hardeman said he is using the condominium as rental property and that moving to the apartment was a way to cut expenses.
"I'm getting married on June 21," Hardeman said in a telephone interview. "This is a way to save money in anticipation of buying a house."
Vincent also criticized Hardeman for frequent changes in his voter registration since he moved to Los Angeles County from Michigan in 1983.
According to the registrar's office, Hardeman registered as a Democrat in February, 1983, while living in Hacienda Heights. He moved to the Regent Avenue condominium and registered as a Democrat in September, 1984.
Hardeman then changed his registration three times in a 13-month period. In January, 1986, he switched to the Republican Party while still living in the condominium. Last January he moved to the Arbor Vitae apartment and declined to state his party affiliation. He re-registered as a Democrat 32 days later.
"I'll say one thing for the guy," Vincent said. "He's flexible."
Vincent said he is convinced that Hardeman moved just to run for the District 4 council seat.
"I think Hardeman is a gadfly looking for a place to land," Vincent said.
He charged that Hardeman, even though the council race is nonpartisan, changed his party affiliation because Inglewood is predominantly Democratic. Hardeman said the questions about his address and party affiliation raised by Vincent are the mayor's way of distracting the voters.
"This whole thing's going to be an embarrassment to (Vincent)," Hardeman said. "You would think that as the city leader he would welcome a chance to work with someone like me."
Vincent said he recently became aware of Hardeman's address and registration situation while examining a list of city commissioners. Hardeman is the chairman of the city's Construction Appeals Board. Vincent said a "group of concerned citizens" then came to him with the same questions about Hardeman's residency and asked him to investigate.
Vincent had, however, accused Hardeman of being a "carpetbagger" during a March interview with a reporter and was quoted as such in a Times campaign story. (The derogatory term stems from the luggage used by Northerners who moved to the South to take advantage of the troubles there after the Civil War.)
Appointed to Board
Hardeman was appointed to the Construction Appeals Board by District 2 Councilman Tony Scardenzan in 1985 while living in that district.
Although it is not a requirement that a commissioner live in the district of the council member who appointed him, Vincent said he was concerned because Hardeman's move leaves District 2 without representation on that board.
Hardeman said Vincent's only concern in bringing up the issue was Thomas' campaign.
"I'm running against Tony Thomas, not Ed Vincent," Hardeman said.