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Court OKs Recall Bid in South Gate

Los Angeles

September 20, 2002|RICHARD MAROSI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An appeals court Thursday ruled that a voter recall drive targeting South Gate's leaders may go forward.

The state appellate court in Los Angeles rejected city officials' contention that the recall petitions circulated among voters were biased.

The unanimous decision, upholding a lower-court order, clears the way for a possible recall election as early as January, though an appeal to the state Supreme Court could push it back further.

Also, the county registrar-recorder's office still must verify some of the 8,000 signatures on the petitions. About 5,500 valid signatures are required.

Attorneys for the recall targets were not available for comment on the ruling. Recall supporters said the date of the recall was less important than the fact voters may have a say at the ballot box.

"The court saw this appeal for what it was: an attempt to thwart the will of the people of South Gate," said Stephen Kaufman, the attorney for recall supporters.

Recall proponents are trying to oust Treasurer Albert Robles and his allies on the City Council, who form a majority. They are Mayor Xochilt Ruvalcaba, Vice Mayor Raul Moriel and Councilwoman Maria Benavides.

The recall backers accuse the officials of corruption, charges the officials deny.

The legal battle began earlier this year after South Gate officials threw out the recall petitions, saying they were flawed.

According to election laws, circulated petitions must state the proponents' reasons for the recall, as well as responses from targeted officials.

The petitions did provide the required content, but the officials claimed that their answers were published in lighter type, creating a biased presentation.

But the justices said the petitions substantially complied with the format rules. They also said that a balanced presentation was irrelevant, because the leaders' answers did not address any of the corruption charges. Instead, they warn residents in Spanish and English to not sign the petition without consulting an attorney.

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