CUDAHY — A recall attempt has been launched against two Cudahy City Councilmen by residents who say they are angry over the council's recent decision to switch city police services from the Bell Police Department to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.
It is the second time in less than a year that voters have launched a recall effort.
City Councilman John Robertson, a 14-year veteran, and Joseph Fregeau, who was recently appointed to the five-member council, have been served with papers notifying them of a recall effort by the Committee for Good Government, an organization of about a dozen residents.
Member Not Targeted
Robertson and Fregeau voted Sept. 5 to end the police contract with Bell and to sign a contract with the Sheriff's Department. Councilman Joseph Graffio also voted to terminate the Bell contract within 90 days.
Graffio was not targeted for a recall because he is up for reelection in April, committee member Georgia Scrivner said. "We'll defeat him in April," she vowed.
Councilmen Bill Colon and Tom Thurman voted against the change.
Recall petitions against Robertson and Fregeau were filed last week with the city clerk. If the petitions are approved by the city clerk, leaders of the recall effort will have 60 days to gather signatures of 25% of the city's 3,300 registered voters to force an election.
The committee has accused Robertson and Fregeau of being insensitive to the desires of the community by voting for the switch after many residents protested at the Sept. 5 meeting.
"If I'm so insensitive, why do voters continue to reelect me?" Robertson asked.
Residents also were angry because council members appointed Fregeau to the council in February rather than scheduling an election to replace Gabriel P. Zippi, who died of cancer.
"Fregeau got on the council through the back door after voters rejected him three times," said Scrivner, referring to Fregeau's unsuccessful attempts at the council in 1978, 1984 and 1988.
"Abe Lincoln ran many times before he was successful, plus there is no dishonor in being appointed," Fregeau countered.
Robertson and Fregeau said they voted to replace the Bell police because the Sheriff's Department offered the city more protection at a slight increase in cost. Under the Sheriff's Department contract, the city will be provided two patrol cars around the clock, with a third being added during periods of unusual activity, Fregeau said. The city also will have access to the sheriff's helicopter and anti-drug and anti-gang programs for school children, Fregeau said.
Bell provides one car full time and two others part time to patrol the city, Fregeau said.
Robertson and Fregeau accused Colon of helping start the recall challenge after the council voted for the change in police protection services. Colon denied having anything to do with the effort. "This is nothing new. I'm accused of being behind every recall attempt against John Robertson," Colon said.
Robertson and Graffio were the targets of an unsuccessful recall attempt last October after they voted to cut off city funding of the Cudahy Social Service Agency, a private organization that distributes food and clothing to the needy.
Robertson and Colon were political allies before they tangled over cutting the agency's funding.
Colon, a strong supporter of the agency, had opposed the withdrawal of funds. During the October recall effort against Robertson, Colon acknowledged that one of the recall leaders had asked him how to start a recall, but Colon denied that he had been involved in the attempt.
In addition to Graffio, Colon and Thurman are up for reelection in April. On Wednesday, Graffio, Robertson and Fregeau formed a majority to fire Thurman as mayor of the five-member council.
Robertson said Thurman had showed a lack of leadership when he tried to reopen discussions with the city of Bell after Cudahy council members decided to contract police services from the Sheriff's Department.
Thurman, who remains on the council, described his firing merely as a signal that "the political season is here."