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Orange County

Trustees Seek Probe of Lopez Recall Effort

November 13, 2002|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

Santa Ana school trustees voted 3 to 1 on Tuesday to ask state lawmakers and the attorney general to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by organizers of a campaign to recall board member Nativo V. Lopez.

Recall supporters gathered enough signatures earlier this year to force a special election, scheduled for Feb. 4. Lopez and his allies have alleged, among other things, that signature-gatherers misrepresented the petition's purpose and were not registered voters in the Santa Ana Unified School District.

In Tuesday's heated debate over the board action, Trustee Rosemarie Avila, who cast the sole dissenting vote, called the decision "outrageous."

"This is an indication of the lack of respect [that] board members Nativo Lopez and John Palacio have for the people of Santa Ana," she said.

However, Trustee Sal Tinajero -- who voted with Lopez and Palacio -- said that the decision would not cost the district any money and that the probe was necessary to settle allegations of wrongdoing.

Recall supporters say the signatures were gathered legally. The district attorney's office, responding to complaints from the district, said last month that an investigation found no evidence of illegal conduct.

Lopez's critics accuse him of promoting bilingual education in violation of Proposition 227 in the mostly Latino district of 62,000 students, as well as being a divisive force in the community. Lopez denies doing anything illegal and says he is being targeted for defending the rights of Latino students and their working-class families.

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