Responding to a complaint filed during a heated political campaign, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office is looking into residency questions regarding another area officeholder.
David Demerjian, who heads the district attorney's public integrity division, said he is checking into allegations that freshman Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) did not live in his district last year at the address where he was registered to vote. Gatto's 43rd Assembly District includes Glendale and the northeast Los Angeles area. Gatto called the allegations, filed by a local Republican Party official shortly before the Nov. 2 election, groundless and politically motivated.
Jane Barnett, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, said in a letter to the D.A.'s office that Gatto lived for a while at a Canyon Drive address outside his district but continued to be registered and to vote at a family-owned home on Armstrong Avenue within the district. She cited campaign contribution records filed with the Federal Election Commission and a business listing with the secretary of state's office, both of which gave the Canyon Drive home as his address.
"I am aware that one who votes in an election must swear that they are a resident at the address at which they are registered," Barnett wrote in her complaint, "and since Mr. Gatto was apparently registered and voting at one location but living at another, I am concerned that there may be potential voting irregularities."
Gatto said he has lived for the last several years at the Armstrong Avenue house, which is owned by his mother. County records show he registered to vote there in 2004.
He said he bought the Canyon Drive house as an investment and spent time there fixing it up but did not live in it. The city of Los Angeles did not issue a certificate of occupancy until August 2009, according to building and safety department records.
"I own several investment properties, including a ranch by the Grand Canyon," Gatto said Friday. "Next thing you know, the Republican Party is going to claim I lived in Arizona," he said.
Gatto said it is common practice for political donors, including himself, to list a business address when writing a contribution check. He also said he did not know why his cousin, who he said filled out the business form that was filed with the state, put Canyon Drive as Gatto's address. Gatto said he was unaware that his cousin had done so until later.
Barnett later provided the D.A. with the name of a Canyon Drive resident, Chuck Reinhart, who initially told The Times that Gatto had been his neighbor for much of 2009 but said in a later interview that he could have been mistaken.
Reinhart said Friday that he had seen Gatto and his wife at the Canyon Drive home several times and had "assumed they lived there," not considering the possibility that they were there to work on the house.
"I never went up and visited him there, so I had no idea," Reinhart said, adding that Gatto and his wife came to his place to introduce themselves. "I don't know whether he lived there or not."
Reinhart is a longtime Republican and contributed to the campaign of Gatto's GOP opponent, Burbank businessman Sunder Ramani. Gatto defeated Ramani in a June special election, filling a vacancy created when Paul Krekorian was elected to the Los Angeles City Council. Gatto beat Ramani again in November for a full two-year term.
In early September, the D.A.'s office confirmed it had opened an investigation into Ramani's residency. Demerjian said this week that investigation is continuing.
Demerjian said his office gets a lot of complaints about candidates and officeholders allegedly lying about where they live and is required to look into each one.