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Recall Group Loses Battle for a Recount of Petition : Law: Suit alleged that the Diamond Bar city clerk incorrectly discounted some signatures. Two council members are targets of conflict-of-interest claims.


A Diamond Bar citizens group that staged a recall campaign against two council members lost a court battle last week to win a recount of their petition.


The lawsuit charged that Diamond Bar City Clerk Lynda Burgess incorrectly discounted a number of signatures on the petition, leaving the group short of the number of names it needed to hold a recall election against council members Gary Miller and Phyllis Papen.

On Nov. 10, Pomona Superior Court Judge Burton Bach denied the request for a recount.

"The judge decided there was not enough evidence provided by proponents of the recall that any wrongdoing had taken place to justify a recount of the signatures," Burgess said.

The decision came as a bitter blow to the recall organizers, who lost the recall drive by less than 1% of the 5,394 signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot. Furthermore, most of the signatures in question were actual Diamond Bar residents who were improperly registered, Burgess said.

Papen said she felt vindicated by the court decision.

"This was a personality dispute," she said. "There was absolutely no grounds for a recall."

The campaign against Miller and Papen began last fall and alleged, among other things, that the two council members violated conflict of interest laws by voting for measures that could benefit them financially.

The recall proponents charged that Papen voted for a waste-hauling franchise in the city of Covina that benefited her live-in boyfriend, a consultant for one of the waste haulers, Western Waste Industries. Papen acknowledged that she voted for the franchise, but said she never voted for a specific permit for Western Waste.

They also maintained that Miller lied about whether he owned RNP Development Inc., a company that has had business before the City Council during his tenure. Miller, however, said documents from the Fair Political Practices Commission confirm that he sold the company before he assumed public office.


"There's not one allegation that was ever proven true," Miller said. "Not one. They have turned me in to the district attorney, the Fair Political Practices Commission, and I was found innocent of all their charges."

Recall organizers said they were dissatisfied with the decision, and are considering an appeal. They contend that Burgess refused to acknowledge a number of valid signatures, and that she sided with Miller and Papen.

"She has discriminated against people, and this is their constitutional right to sign a petition," said Lee Schad, a member of the recall campaign. "It's not up to a city clerk in Diamond Bar to say 'I'll give you this one but I'll take this one away.' She represents the citizens of Diamond Bar, not just two City Council members."

Councilman Clair Harmony added: "I sense that the whole process is tainted."

However, Burgess said that in fact, she did not validate the signatures herself, but only confirmed judgments made by the County Registrar of Voters.


"The crux of the matter is, how in the world can I be biased if I didn't make the decision on the signatures, the county did!" she exclaimed.

The final number of signatures fell short by 52 names for Papen and 44 for Miller, Burgess said. Most of those, she said, were people who were improperly registered or who had moved but not re-registered at their new addresses.

However, Schad said some of the signatures were thrown out without warrant.

In one case, she said, the registrar of voters disqualified a man whose signature on his registration did not match that on the petition.

Schad said the man had suffered a stroke, which impaired his ability to write.

In another instance she said a father and son with the same name, who lived at the same address, both signed the petition but were only counted as one person.

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