HAWAIIAN GARDENS — Domenic Ruggeri has been declared the winner in his close race with former Councilman Richard Vineyard for a seat on the City Council.
Ruggeri, who trailed Vineyard by one vote Tuesday night, moved into the lead after the city clerk allowed 17 questionable ballots to be counted, and Ruggeri received all but one of the votes.
Final results show that Ruggeri, a 67-year-old salesman for a catalogue cover manufacturer, received 401 votes. Vineyard received 386.
Ruggeri is a political ally of Councilwoman Kathleen Navejas, who was the top vote-getter with 517 votes. Incumbent Councilman Donald Schultze was defeated.
City Clerk Carol Dorfmeyer allowed 17 of 20 questionable ballots to be counted. Most of the ballots were cast by voters who were not on registration lists at the polling places. Some residents register shortly before the closing date, Dorfmeyer said, and their names sometimes do not get on the poll list in time for the election. The ballots are not counted until voters' signatures and addresses can be checked, she said.
Four were absentee ballots cast on Tuesday on an emergency basis by people who were ill, Dorfmeyer said. The signatures must be checked against the signatures on file in the office of the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters, she said.
With Ruggeri in and Schultze out, the council is likely to be more united, with Navejas in the leadership role. She and Schultze, who served as mayor this past year, have been on opposite sides of a controversial proposal to build a 57-unit motel at the intersection of Carson Street and Belshire Avenue.
Critics of the motel, the city's first, say it would attract prostitution and drug trafficking to the area. Supporters such as Navejas and Ruggeri say the motel would produce jobs and tax revenues.
Besides Navejas, the motel supporters on the City Council are Lennie Wagner and Venn Furgeson. But Furgeson has announced that he is resigning this week because of poor health, which will allow the four remaining council members to appoint his replacement.
Only one remaining council member, Rosalie Sher, opposes the motel.
Voters will have a chance to voice their sentiments on the motel issue in June. They will be asked to approve a referendum that allows the council to establish an occupancy tax of up to 10%.
Backers of the motel proposal say the tax could generate $60,000 in revenues. If the referendum does not pass, they say, there is no reason for the developer to proceed with the building plans.
The developer is El Camino Real Development Co., whose principal partners are James V. Wilson of Rolling Hills Realty in Rolling Hills Estates and Malcohn Kao of M K Development in South Pasadena.