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Pacheco Claims Meddling in Race

He tells City Council that District 14 staff may be helping his rival, school board member Jose Huizar, who calls the complaint 'ridiculous.'

July 28, 2005|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

The election for the District 14 seat on the Los Angeles City Council is still three months away, but on Wednesday one of the candidates took the campaign to City Hall.

Nick Pacheco, a former council member as well as a candidate, turned to the council, as any ordinary Angeleno might, by obtaining a public speaker's card at the morning meeting. He spoke for 3 1/2 minutes before Council President Alex Padilla asked him to wrap up his remarks.

Pacheco told the council that he thought the 14th District office might be aiding the candidacy of Jose Huizar, who is president of the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

As proof, Pacheco cited a flier for an Aug. 6 community beautification day in the district at which Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is advertised to appear.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 30, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Council race -- An article in Thursday's California section about the campaign for the 14th District seat on the Los Angeles City Council misidentified the president of the Los Angeles Unified school board as Jose Huizar. Marlene Canter became president July 1.

Pacheco alleges that Huizar edited the flier electronically to add that "School Board Member Jose Huizar" also would attend. That phrase appears in a typeface different from the information about the mayor.

"We don't need cheerleaders in council District 14; we need caretakers who will answer the phone," Pacheco said to the nine council members present -- seven of whom appeared to actually be listening.

Later, to a reporter, Pacheco said: "My objection now is that public resources are being used to campaign for a particular candidate."

Pacheco was the district's councilman from 1999 through 2003, when Villaraigosa ousted him after a heated campaign. When Villaraigosa won the mayor's race in May, Padilla appointed a member of Villaraigosa's staff -- Lisa Sarno -- to oversee constituent services for the district until a replacement is elected.

Villaraigosa has not supported a candidate in the district race. The primary election will be held Nov. 8 and the runoff, if needed, probably will be held in January or February.

Sixteen candidates have filed to run for the seat, but Pacheco and Huizar are the best known among them.

Although the campaigns have been quiet so far, Pacheco has tried to make education an issue -- a strategy that involves using Huizar's post at the school district against him.

Huizar called Pacheco's allegations "ridiculous." He said his office added his name to the flier, and he defended his right to do so.

"I think these are acts of desperation on behalf of Nick," Huizar said. "I'm not going to stop my duties as a school board member just because I'm running for the City Council."

Pacheco said that after Huizar added his name, Huizar's office distributed the flier.

Sarno declined to comment on the matter Wednesday and referred all inquiries to Padilla's office.

Padilla said the city Ethics Commission probably would look into Pacheco's complaint about Huizar. But he also said it was "very unlikely" that Sarno would be replaced.

Pacheco also said a caretaker should have been appointed from the city's chief legislative analyst's office, which is the custom.

For example, when Councilman Martin Ludlow left office this month to become head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Padilla chose a member of the legislative office's staff to fill in.

But Padilla chose Lisa Sarno in the 14th District, because, he said, "There was a genuine interest and enthusiasm for her to serve the district."

Pacheco also has used fliers creatively in the campaign. On July 11, he sent an e-mail inviting supporters to the opening of a new dog park.

It's a project that was initiated while Pacheco was in office but completed while Villaraigosa was the councilman.

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