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Fax Machine Foul-Up Delays Monrovia Special Election

January 06, 1991|KAREN E. KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A high-tech blunder by a malfunctioning City Hall fax machine has forced a delay of more than three months in a special election on whether Monrovia should build a new $8.8-million police station.

City officials said last week that a jammed fax machine had bungled printing of the election's required legal notice.

The goof, discovered six months after the fact, forced the City Council to postpone the special election from Feb. 26 until sometime in June. The city will also have to reprint the notice and hold a second public hearing on the new facility.

The error may cost the city more than a few months' delay, however. City Manager Jim Starbird said Monrovia has already spent up to $1,500 on expenses related to the February election, including printing and supply costs. However, he said he hopes some of the materials purchased can be used in the June election.

If the election had gone ahead as scheduled, there was a possibility that its validity could have been challenged because of the improper legal notice, city officials said.

Lifelong Monrovia resident Daniel Baker, an opponent of the proposed police station, brought the problem to the city's attention last month. "I just felt the public didn't get enough notification of the hearings," Baker said. "I really stumbled onto the error--I didn't mean to catch them (city officials) with their pants down."

City Atty. Rick Morillo identified the culprit in the mix-up as a malfunctioning City Hall fax machine. Last summer, when the city sent its 22-page legal notice to the Monrovia News-Post, which is approved by the courts to print legal advertising for the city, the pages bunched up and five were lost, he said.

Missy Burns, legal public notice coordinator for the local paper, said she remembers receiving the notice and printing it on July 25, 1990. "I didn't even notice the error because what was printed on the bottom of the page seemed to follow onto the next page. It made sense to me," Burns said.

City staffers were late in discovering the error, Morillo told the council, and missed the News-Post's deadline for reprinting the notice in time for the public hearing.

The error postpones hoped-for relief for the Monrovia Police Department, whose 76 full-time employees are housed in a 12,800-square-foot facility built in 1961. The department and a citizen's advisory committee have concluded that the station is cramped, outmoded and does not meet earthquake standards.

The News-Post, which charges 37 cents per line for legal advertising, will not reprint the city's notice for free because it was not the newspaper's error, Burns said.

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