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Proposal to Hire Outsider to Run 1994 Election Criticized : Torrance: The city clerk, who will be up for reelection, wants to avoid any potential conflict of interest. But the City Council opposes the plan because of its cost.

May 20, 1993|ANTHONY MILLICAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A proposal by Torrance City Clerk John A. Bramhall to hire a consultant to run the 1994 municipal election drew fire this week from his two likely challengers next year and several City Council members.

Bramhall, who plans to run for reelection, proposed the idea because he is expected to face Dora Hong, his deputy city clerk, and former election aide Sue Herbers in the March, 1994, city clerk's race.

He had proposed that Torrance hire Pomona consultant Pamela S. Swift, at a cost of $16,650 plus travel expenses, to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest during the election. Swift would have been paid for everything from preparing legal documents to establishing an absentee voter process.

But council members, citing concerns about the consultant's cost and accessibility, voted 6-1 to delay the matter. The council asked Bramhall to explore alternatives, including seeking election assistance from nearby cities, and to report back at a later date.

Councilman Mark Wirth opposed the delay, saying the city should move quickly to hire the consultant to ensure fairness and impartiality in the next election.

Hong, however, told council members that the proposal is "a waste of taxpayer money" because the consultant would be paid for work already completed by clerical staff. She said that Bramhall would be shirking his duties by handing off responsibility for the election.

"I want to see the city clerk conduct this election so that the voters can see really what they're getting for their money," Hong said. "If he wants to abdicate his responsibilities, then he should abdicate his salary."

Herbers, a member of the city's Environmental Quality & Energy Conservation Commission who worked for the city during the 1992 elections, said the state Fair Political Practices Commission ensures sufficient oversight of the voting process.

"While I appreciate the call for neutrality and impartiality, it is already a part of the constraints imposed automatically on any person working in the election process," Herbers said.

According to the City Charter, the clerk's duties include attending all council meetings, safekeeping official records, conducting municipal elections and serving as filing officer for conflict-of-interest and campaign statements.

Bramhall said that the mere appearance of a conflict of interest should effectively disqualify him--along with Herbers and Hong--from being directly involved with the 1994 election.

Bramhall, 68, was appointed by the council in 1988. He has worked for several cities, including Lawndale, where he served as treasurer for six months in 1988. He held several positions, including city clerk and assistant city administrator, in the City of Commerce, from where he retired 10 years ago.

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