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2 of 3 Elected in Fullerton Vow to Kill Utility Tax

October 19, 1994|MIMI KO and SHELBY GRAD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

FULLERTON — The city's voters went to the polls Tuesday to replace three City Council members ousted by recall, culminating an unusual--and costly--special election marked by political infighting, bitter lawsuits and ballot-box confusion.

Two of the newly elected, Jan M. Flory and Conrad DeWitte, will serve on the council for no more than six weeks, unless voters reelect them in the Nov. 8 general election. The third winner, Peter Godfrey, will serve a two-year term.

Tuesday's unprecedented election was forced by the June recall of three council members who voted to impose a 2% utility tax last year.

DeWitte and Godfrey have vowed to repeal the utility tax. Flory said she supports keeping the tax.

DeWitte, a 46-year-old businessman, said voters agreed with him that the utility tax was not needed.

"I think everyone is feeling the recession and is cutting back," he said. "When government doesn't do that, you have to say, 'Hey, you guys aren't listening.' "

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 22, 1994 Orange County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Column 4 Orange County Focus Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Fullerton election--A story Wednesday about the special election in Fullerton failed to fully explain the position on the city utility tax of one of the winners. Jan M. Flory supports maintaining the tax only until it expires in September, 1995.

Added Godfrey, a 49-year-old attorney: "This community voted for a conservative Republican to stop the taxing and spending. That's our policy. The clean campaign we ran is what won it. We didn't use any mud."

Flory, a 50-year-old family law attorney, said her victory proves that residents want to "return to normalcy."

"The message of the recall is that there needs to be better communications between City Hall and the citizens," she said. "The recall election made people take stock of the city and the services we take for granted."

Tuesday's vote was the latest act in a yearlong political drama that has divided residents and cost the city more than $200,000 in election costs and legal fees. Because it was scheduled so close to the Nov. 8 general election, many city voters were left confused by the process.

The sheer number of candidates also played a role in voter confusion. Eighteen people ran in the special election, including one unsuccessful candidate who called for a massive reorganization of city government.

"It's terribly confusing," said voter George Lowe, a 46-year-old interior designer. "I think it's a waste of money to have a (special) election two to three weeks before the real election."

"I was so confused," added Oliva Luna, 32. "There were so many candidates and no commercials that I didn't even vote."

The election didn't stop the City Council from holding an afternoon session that lasted into the evening. The meeting was attended by several candidates, who after the polls closed went to several restaurants around the city to wait for election returns.

The city was expected to spend $117,000 on the special election, and has spent more than $100,000 on June's recall vote.

The central issue in Tuesday's election was the 2% utility tax imposed by the council last year. The tax, applied to monthly water, telephone, electric, gas and cable television bills, costs a Fullerton household an average of $4.40 a month, according to city officials.

Mayor A.B. (Buck) Catlin and council members Don Bankhead and Molly McClanahan approved the tax despite vocal opposition from hundreds of residents and business owners who said the levy was unnecessary.

The three council members argued that the tax was the only way to balance the city's budget without making deep cuts in police and fire services. The tax, which would expire in September, 1995, is expected to provide the city with $4.6 million in new revenue.

Angered by the council's actions, tax opponents launched a recall campaign that culminated in June when voters ousted Catlin, Bankhead and McClanahan by slim margins.

In an effort to save money, the city tried to consolidate the special election with the Nov. 8 general election, a move opposed by recall leaders.

In July, the Fullerton Recalls Committee took the city to court. Orange County Superior Court Judge Donald E. Smallwood ruled in the recall group's favor and ordered Tuesday's special election.

The city spent more than $8,700 on court costs related to the case, officials said.

The winners of Tuesday's election will be inaugurated at a special Oct. 25 council meeting. The two short-term council members will succeed Catlin and McClanahan, whose terms would have expired in November.

City officials expect the short-term winners to serve on the council for three or six weeks. They will leave office sometime after the Nov. 8 election, unless they are reelected to serve four-year terms.

The other winner of Tuesday's election will serve out the two years remaining on the term of Bankhead.

Times correspondent Alan Eyerly contributed to this report.

EDITION TIME ELECTION RETURNS

Fullerton

Special City Council Election

Two-year term

100% Precincts Reporting Votes % Peter Godfrey* 4,050 33.8 Jacob Spaargaren 2,749 22.9 Dave Zenger 1,979 16.5 Brent Hardwick 1,619 13.5 Robert E. McNutt 703 5.9 Claudia M. Keller 686 5.7 Dreux D. Valenti 200 1.7

***

Short term (Three or six weeks, decision pending)

100% Precincts Reporting Votes % Jan M. Flory* 7,029 31.2 Conrad DeWitte* 3,905 17.3 Jack Dean 3,521 15.6 Gary E. Nouskajian 2,634 11.7 David H. Jerome 1,405 6.2 Michael J. Wagner 962 4.3 James Tanaka 921 4.1 Bradley M. Kimball 566 2.5 Armand A. (Vic) Victoria 562 2.5 Leland C. Wilson 544 2.4 Bahia Wilson 512 2.3

Elected candidates in bold (*) type.

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