Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

EDITORIALS

Infernal Vernon

April 14, 2006

HISTORY HAS SHOWN THAT there is no election the city of Vernon will not cancel, disrupt or simply ignore if there is even the possibility it will not benefit the handful of families that have mismanaged the city for a century. So the only thing surprising about Vernon City Clerk Bruce Malkenhorst Jr. locking up the ballot box and refusing to count the votes after Tuesday's extraordinary City Council election is that the California secretary of state, the U.S. attorney's office and a county judge let it happen once again.

A quick primer: In 1978, then-City Clerk Bruce Malkenhorst Sr. -- who at various times in his long Vernon career was the highest-paid municipal employee in California -- disqualified enough challenger ballots to ensure the mayoral victory of Leonis Malburg, who happens to be the grandson of the city's founder. Two years later, the same thing. For the next 25 years, the Malburg-run City Hall simply canceled all elections.

Last January, some new residents showed up in town. They found their power cut, their cars trailed and their voter registrations revoked. Malburg and Co. canceled the election yet again, but Superior Court Judge David Yaffe ordered Vernon to hold a competitive vote in April. Various lawsuits were filed, voter registration swelled from 60 to 86 and, just before the election, Yaffe rejected the challengers' motion to have the ballots counted by the L.A. County registrar. How do we know whether the election is fair, he asked, before we know how it turns out?

The answer: Because this is Vernon. When the polls closed, Malkenhorst grabbed the ballot box, brushed off reporters (a local specialty) and locked it away, issuing a statement that maybe he'd get around to counting the votes once all the court cases had cleared. For now, Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz is allowing the results to remain sealed.

In a city with such a long and sordid history of manipulating elections, and where residents live in fear of crossing their powerful rulers, there is no excuse for letting the old gang authenticate the vote.

The secretary of state intervened in a similar case just three years ago in South Gate, only four miles away, where corrupt local pols were driven from office by a recall administered by the county, not the city. (Albert Robles, South Gate's disgraced former treasurer, is, ironically, being accused by Vernon officials of orchestrating the latest challenge to their power.) Such an act requires targeted state legislation, and such legislation is long overdue.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|