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Recall Effort Stymied When Signatures Are Disqualified : Politics: The drive to remove two councilmen collapses after county election officials find massive irregularities in the petitions. Organizers say they will try again.

July 22, 1993|JILL GOTTESMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BELL GARDENS — An effort to oust two City Council members unexpectedly collapsed this week after county election officials invalidated more than half of the signatures on recall petitions.

The massive disqualification brought to an abrupt halt the attempt to recall Mayor Frank B. Duran and Councilman Rodolfo (Rudy) Garcia, who won council seats about 18 months ago after four council members were recalled.

Organizers of the latest recall effort had submitted 2,100 signatures, 700 more than the minimum needed to force a November election, but county election officials threw out 1,084 signatures, leaving the recall effort 316 short.

Hundreds of signatures were disqualified for technical violations. In some cases, the petitions abbreviated the city's name rather than spelling it out. Officials also disqualified several signatures in which it was apparent that someone else had filled out the address, according to Mike Martinet, acting city clerk.

County officials also found a number of other irregularities on the petitions, including several signatures that didn't match signatures on county voter registration cards, names that appeared on the petitions several times, and names of residents who were not registered to vote, Martinet said.

Recall proponent Leo McIntyre, a Bell Gardens businessman who spent more than $13,000 on the failed attempt, said this week that he plans to make another bid to oust the two councilmen.

"Sure, I'm disappointed, but I refuse to quit," he said. "I think there is a snake in the woods somewhere. I can't believe we would (be disqualified) because of nit-picking."

Recall organizers would have to start over, serving the councilmen again with recall notices, seeking the City Clerk's approval of the petition wording and gathering at least 1,400 signatures. There is no waiting period, said Marcia Ventura, spokeswoman for the county registrar of voters.

Duran and Garcia were at a conference in Monterey, Calif., this week and could not be reached for comment.

Duran, Garcia and two other council members were elected in March, 1992, after the successful recall of four Anglo council members who were accused of being insensitive to the city's Latino population.

McIntyre launched his recall effort in March after Duran and Garcia voted along with Councilwoman Rosa Hernandez against permanently hiring interim Police Chief Ed Taylor, who was well liked by McIntyre and other recall backers.

The council members indicated that they thought Taylor--a former president of the Police Officers Assn. and a longtime friend of Councilman George T. Deitch--was doing an adequate job, but they preferred a Latino police chief who could speak Spanish. The following week Duran and Garcia were served with recall papers that accused them of using their positions for personal gain and of encouraging racist hiring practices in City Hall. Both councilmen have denied the allegations.

"The people involved with the recall don't even know me and haven't even come to talk to me about it," Duran said when he was served with the papers. "They only know what they read in the newspapers."

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