- Reporters Desk
By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter and Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
In the latest fallout of Carson’s June 2 race to fill Assemblyman Mike Gipson’s old seat, City Clerk Jim Dear was served with a Notice of Intention to Recall on June 30.
In his current job as city clerk, he forwarded it the next day to the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters for processing. The city council took action that night to remove Dear from the recall process and appointed city administrative analyst Lisa Berglund in his place.
Once the registrar processes the notice, recall proponents have 120 days to gather slightly more than 8,000 signatures necessary to force a recall.
Next, the signatures will be submitted to the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters, who will have 30 days to determine if a sufficient number of signatures have been gathered. If they are determined to be valid, then the city council has 30 days to schedule a recall election, which must take place between 88 and 125 days after the council’s action. By that timeline, a recall election would be possible in early 2016.
This isn’t the first time Dear has stared down a recall effort. Dear’s political opponents, Carson Citizens for Reform, attempted to unseat him as mayor in 2008, accusing him of being too closely tied to corporate interests and “disrespectful” of residents and fellow council members Lula Davis-Holmes and Mike Gipson at the time. Dear soundly defeated that effort.
The current recall allegations, however, follow a June 15 confrontation during which former Mayor Vera Dewitt and members of her organization, Carson Citizens for Reform, held a press conference in the city clerk’s office and asked Dear to step down, alleging voting irregularities, including:
• Endorsing at least one of the special election candidates “during the L.A. County Democratic endorsement proceedings;”
• Allegedly disenfranchising thousands “in the northern [black majority] part of the city with little or no notification and no effort to find another polling location;”
• Delaying election results by attending a city clerk certification class that “could have been taken at a different time;”
• Changing the combination to the clerk’s safe, while it contained uncounted ballots “so that not even the deputy city clerk can access the vault.”
These charges, plus a few others were listed in the Notice of Intent to Recall, including:
• “Called the former Elections Officer the “N” word,” but without indicating who that officer was;
• “Tried to sabotage the NFL Stadium negotiations …”
• “Ran for city clerk just to spike his pension” and “embarrassed the city” and “unethically endorsed a candidate in the…Special Election.”
Dear rebutted the charges in an interview with Random Lengths in the days following the June 16 council meeting.
“Three elementary schools used in the March 3 election informed us they were unavailable because June 2 was the week of [elementary school] graduation,” he argued. “Our job was to secure public facilities in these three consolidated precincts, as close as we can get to the old locations.”
The schools are at 232 Place in south Carson, which serves predominantly Asian-American and Filipino-American voters; Leapwood, and Annalee. Dear said there were no known complaints from the 232 Place precinct’s voters about the substitute location.
Dear insists he did not personally endorse any candidate in the June 2 election. He’s a member of the Los Angeles County Democratic Club which endorsed second-place finisher Jesus-Alex Cainglet but “the organization is free to endorse whoever they want.”
With regard to sabotaging the NFL stadium deal, he replied that DeWitt was throwing everything at him, indicating the city seal on his desk.
“She’s saying I tried to sabotage NFL stadium efforts by withholding the city seal [on certain documents] … on every document for the NFL, I’ve said yes.”
In one of the more explosive moments of a chaotic June 16 council meeting, Charles Davis, former Compton city clerk, publicly told the council Dear called him “nigger.” Davis is African American. He previously served as a Carson election official when then-clerk Donesia Gause was seeking re-election.
On June 16, Davis told the council that Dear served him with court papers, then muttered the expletive as he walked away. Later that night, Dear argued with Mayor Albert Robles and stormed out. He and Davis separately told ABC newscaster Elex Michaelson their stories.
“I would never, ever call that person the N-word,” Dear said. “People who know me know I don’t even cuss.”
Davis said he wasn’t calling Dear racist but, “My mama once told me when people are really pissed they say what’s in their heart.”
Possible Motives Behind
The local activist group believes Dear deliberately delayed the vote count so that the fourth member of this council could not be seated before the council appoints a fifth council member.
“It is our interpretation that you would like to hold an election in November, at great expense to taxpayers, so that you can run again for mayor of this city in 2017,” DeWitt said during the June 15 press conference.
The current council majority wanted to have Gipson’s seat filled by June 16 so that Robles’ seat could be filled by appointment on June 20, just in time for the June 23 meeting. Dear said during the council meeting that he would certify the election on June 23. The legal deadline for certifying the election was June 26.
To affect this outcome, Mayor Robles called for a June 12 emergency meeting with only 24-hour notice to hire Davis as a temporary elections official to complete the ballot count, passing the measure by a 2-1 vote, with Councilman Elito Santarina on speakerphone—though he complained that he was unable to clearly hear the proceedings on his end.
Longtime council observer and perennial council candidate, Rita Boggs, questioned the council on whether the meeting was properly noticed.
The day after the meeting, Dear changed the combination to the vault holding the ballots and then filed an injunction against the council the following Monday to retain control of the clerk’s office. Dear was confronted by DeWitt and her organization after this.
At the June 16 council meeting, to circumvent Dear, Mayor Robles and Councilwoman Lula Davis-Holmes appointed Hilton to Robles’ seat, with Santarina voting against.
Dear called the action illegal because Santarina broke quorum by leaving just after Robles made the motion and Lula Davis-Holmes seconded it.
Hilton is now serving on the council. At press time a fifth council seat remains vacant.
Dear has called the recall effort a “repeat of 2008,” referring to the previous recall attempt. “Same characters, another waste of taxpayer funds.”
He said that any allegation of voter disenfranchisement is potentially inflammatory in this city with a large African-American population.
“She’s claiming I somehow disenfranchised disabled and minority voters, by moving three polling places.”
Dear denies it and the other charges. He suggests DeWitt’s motive for launching the recall is that she wants to be city clerk.