Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Court Rejects Bid to Block South Gate Recall Vote
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
A last-ditch effort by the city of South Gate to block a recall election for the city treasurer and the council majority was rejected yesterday by the state Supreme Court.
The court without comment denied an application for stay filed last month by Julia Sylva, the appointed South Gate elections official.
Nate Kraut, counsel to the recall proponents, said the action means the city and the recall targets have no legal arguments left to prevent the Jan. 28 vote from taking place.
“They put roadblocks up each step of the way,” Kraut said. “Hopefully this is the last of them.”
Stephen Kaufman of Smith Kaufman, who also is representing the proponents, agreed.
“The legal wrangling is finally over,” Kaufman said. “There’s no place else for them to go.”
Sylva said she had to concur.
“I don’t believe we have any other litigious options,” she said.
Opponents of Treasurer Albert Robles, the perceived political boss of the city of about 100,000, and his council supporters, Xochilt Ruvalcaba, Maria Benavides, and Raul Moriel, have been seeking the recall vote for more than a year. The process was delayed for months by litigation over the proper form of the recall petitions.
The Court of Appeal for this district ruled in September that the recall should go forward despite a technical violation of rules regarding typefaces used in the petition.
That ruling filed months of political turmoil. Robles was arrested for threatening other public officials, the council voted to use city money to pay his legal bills, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge blocked the use of city money, and the council hired Robles to two salaried positions. Meanwhile, the council removed all elections duties from the elected city clerk and hired Sylva, a lawyer and member of the state Law Revision Commission.
Troubled by the allegations of corruption in South Gate, the Legislature unanimously passed, and Gov. Gray Davis signed, a bill to assure that the recall election would be handled not by Sylva or by South Gate but by the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder.
A total of 13 candidates have filed to run against the recall targets. Voters will be asked whether to recall the current officeholder and will also select a replacement.
Terms expire this year for two of the recall targets, including Robles, so whichever candidates win in those races will have to run again on March 4.
Kaufman said his firm would serve as legal counsel to committees supporting the recall and a slate of candidates.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company