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Los Angeles

State to Monitor Recall Election

January 28, 2003|Richard Marosi | Times Staff Writer

Concerned about possible voter intimidation and coercion, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said Monday that his office will be monitoring today's recall election in South Gate.

"Election fraud investigators will be working ... to ensure that the election is coordinated with integrity and the outcome reflects the wishes of the people of South Gate," Shelley said in a news conference outside City Hall.

State investigators will be accompanied by election officials from the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder's office.

The recall and anti-recall camps have traded allegations of intimidation and voter fraud in recent weeks.

Supporters of the recall, which is being led by the city's two police unions, say city employees have been illegally filling out absentee ballots against the recall. The anti-recall camp accuses police officers of harassment and of "staring down" residents.

Voters will decide whether they want to recall Treasurer Albert Robles and his three City Council allies: Mayor Xochilt Ruvalcaba, Vice Mayor Raul Moriel and Councilwoman Maria Benavides. The officials are accused of corruption; all deny the allegations.

Meanwhile, more details emerged about a transaction approved by the City Council last week that benefits a former business partner of Robles.

Robles' three council allies approved a $1.5-million grant of federal funds to George Garrido, who wants to build a recycling plant in the city. Garrido does not have to repay the money under terms of the contract.

The $1.5 million is in addition to $2.4 million in federal low-interest loans awarded to Garrido at last week's meeting. Neither figure was mentioned in a terse, two-sentence statement describing the recycling plant project to the public. The first mention of $1.5 million and $2.4 million appeared on Page 9 of a "loan and grant agreement" that was not provided to the public.

City Clerk Carmen Avalos has refused to sign the documents that would finalize the deal, saying city officials have not provided her with a copy of the contract and other pertinent information. At Monday night's council meeting, Avalos was given notice that the city planned to take her to court to force her to sign the documents.

City Atty. Salvador Alva, who took part in the negotiations, said the transaction was good for the city because a recycling facility would generate jobs and would help meet the city's goals of recycling trash.

When the crowd at Monday night's meeting heard that the city attorney had served the city clerk with court papers, more than 100 began jeering him.

Councilman Hector De La Torre, who favors the recall, said city officials are withholding information in a rush to approve the recycling plant deal.

Alva said the deal had been overseen by a consultant who has handled many federal grant transactions.

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