The Inglewood city attorney and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office said this week that City Council candidate Garland Hardeman has lived in the district in which he is running long enough to represent that area.
At a press conference this week, Hardeman, a 30-year-old Los Angeles police officer, said that now that the residency question has been answered, the focus of the June 16 runoff in District 4 should turn to the issues.
However, Mayor Ed Vincent, who earlier this month charged that Hardeman did not meet the minimum city residency requirement of one year because he changed his voter registration from the 2nd District to the 4th District in January, continues to insist that Hardeman is a "carpetbagger" who does not live where he is running.
Thomas Says Voters Will Decide
Vincent is backing Earvin (Tony) Thomas, a 45-year-old administrator for 7-Up Bottling Co., in the election.
Thomas said in a telephone interview Wednesday that despite the city attorney's decision, it is the voters of the 4th District who will decide whether Hardeman has lived in the area long enough to represent them.
Questions over Hardeman's residency arose after he finished first out of a field of four vying for the 4th District council seat in the April 7 primary election. Hardeman received 48.2%, or 533 votes, and Thomas got 29.6%, or 327 votes. William E. Jenkins, who finished third in the race with 16.3% of the votes, said Wednesday that he is endorsing Hardeman.
Hardeman said that he moved into an apartment in the 4th District last September, but that he continues to own a condominium in the 2nd District. He said that he now rents out the condominium, where he had lived since 1984. He said he had changed his address on an absentee ballot in the November election and thought that would automatically move his voter registration to the 4th District. He said he did not find out until later that he had to fill out a new form to change his registration, which he did in January, four days before taking out papers to run for office.
The confusion over Hardeman's residency is complicated by the fact that Inglewood's City Charter requires a candidate to live in a district for one year before filing to run for office. However, the California Supreme Court overturned a similar provision in another city's charter 11 years ago, ruling that cities may establish no more than a 30-day residency requirement.
Despite the ruling, Inglewood has never changed its one-year provision.
The state Government Code, which cities must follow if they do not have a superseding law, requires only that a person live in and be registered to vote in the district in which he or she runs. The code does not specify any time limit on residency.
The question in this case, said City Atty. Howard Rosten, is whether the state Supreme Court decision automatically reduced the city's residency requirement to the maximum 30 days, or voided it, leaving the city subject to the state Government Code.
Rosten said he has concluded that the latter applies in Hardeman's case.
No Official Request
"If there is an ambiguity (in the law), we have to interpret it in a way more likely to involve the most participation in the process," he said. Rosten added that he had not been asked officially to rule in the matter, that only the city clerk can make such a request. But he said that if he had been asked, "I would have ruled that you don't have to be a resident for 30 days" before filing for office.
Rosten said he has not been asked officially to amend the charter to impose the 30-day residency requirement, but said he intends to do so when time allows.
Rosten also said that another question had been raised over Hardeman's residency. He said the Inglewood Police Department had received a complaint alleging that Hardeman does not live in the 4th District, which would be a violation of state election laws. The complaint was forwarded to the District Attorney's office.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Candace Beason said she expects to notify the city this week that based on the information she has, Hardeman does not appear to have broken the law.
Beason said questions of domicile are "generally not prosecutable cases."
"They are next to impossible to prove," Beason said in an interview this week. "Domicile has to do with 'intent' to live there, even if the person isn't living there every day."
Examples of Proof
She said a driver license, utility bill or voter registration is sufficent proof of domicile.
At Hardeman's press conference, several of his supporters said Vincent's allegations have given voters the impression that it is Vincent, not Thomas, who is running against Hardeman. They urged Vincent to get out of the campaign and let the voters decide who they want to represent them.