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Gonzalez Suit Alleges Errors in Conducting South Gate Election

May 15, 1988|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

SOUTH GATE — Henry C. Gonzalez, ousted from office in last month's City Council election, has gone to court to continue his fight to regain his seat.

Gonzalez filed a complaint with the Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday alleging that the city clerk made errors in conducting the April 12 election that could alter the outcome of the contest. In the race for two council seats, Gonzalez and fellow incumbent John Sheehy were defeated.

The court action marks Gonzalez's second attempt to regain the office. He requested a recount April 26, but the process only confirmed the election-day results.

Gonzalez, a councilman for six years who was also serving as mayor at the time of the election, finished third behind Robert A. Philipp and Dorothea Lombardo. Only seven votes separated him and Lombardo. Sheehy finished last.

City Clerk Janet Stubbs, Lombardo and the city are defendants in the Gonzalez complaint.

Stubbs and Lombardo declined to comment on the case last week.

Gonzalez claims in the complaint that Stubbs "failed to send anyone to the post office at the close of the polls to collect any undelivered absentee ballots that had been delivered (to the post office) earlier in the day."

Gonzalez said in an interview that he believes there are absentee ballots that arrived at the clerk's office the day after the election but were dated on or before April 12 and should have been counted.

Gonzalez also said that he believes he didn't get credit for at least two other ballots that election officials disputed. Gonzales said he saw the two ballots during the April 26 recount.

Rather than having properly "punched out" his preference, one voter had placed "Xs" next to Gonzalez's name on the ballot, the former mayor said. On another ballot, Gonzalez's name had been written in, he said.

"If she (Stubbs) counts those two votes, I move two votes closer," Gonzalez said.

Expects Hearing

Gonzalez's lawyer, Frank P. Barbaro, said he expects the court to schedule a hearing on the matter within 30 days.

The election is being contested to see if the city clerk followed all of the rules, Barbaro said.

Barbaro said he believes that there are perhaps 30 ballots that are "questionable" or were not counted for various reasons given by the clerk.

"A number of ballots were not counted or opened" because they were not picked up from the post office, Barbaro said.

"We have talked with city clerks in other cities and all of them say a sincere effort is made to go to the post office before the polls close or before the post office closes," Barbaro said.

"Those ballots may be for Lombardo or they may be for Gonzalez. But we want to know. They could very well change the outcome of the election," he said.

Gonzalez, 52, had said before the election that he expected political opponents to go after him because of his vigorous support of the city's effort last year to take over Southern California Edison Co.'s business in South Gate.

While neither Philipp or Lombardo attacked Gonzalez or Sheehy directly, both accused the council as a whole of trying to quietly take over the electric company's power transmission business in the city without putting the issue before the voters.

The council decided to drop the idea after a public outcry.

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