Montebello Recall Signatures In the Hands of City, County

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, EGP Staff Writer

“Save Our City,” a group pushing for the recall of two council members in Montebello, turned in several boxes of recall petitions Monday afternoon containing well over double the number of signatures required.

Proponents of the recall needed to collect valid signatures from twenty percent, or 5,099 of the city’s registered voters, for each of the council member recall petitions in order to force a special election on the issue.

The group says it collected 14,959 signatures endorsing a recall election on Councilwoman Kathy Salazar, and 11,871 signatures endorsing a recall vote on Mayor Pro Tem Robert Urteaga.

“I think [the number of signatures collected] shows the community has been outraged and is ready to remove these self-serving elected officials,” said the petitioner’s spokesperson Chris Robles.

While the council members’ approval of an exclusive trash hauling contract with Athens is what first roused the anger of some residents, it was their subsequent efforts at preventing a referendum vote on the contract that made the public lose trust in them, says Robles.

“They used tax dollars to block every effort of the people to have this issue re-examined and reviewed,” he says.

Salazar questions the validity of the signatures gathered, saying that the high number makes her suspect fraud.

“That’s just too hard to believe. That doesn’t make sense in our city of Montebello where people do not like recalls,” said Salazar responding to the submission of signatures on Monday.

Councilwoman Salazar says she was involved in a similarly heated uproar over the possibility that the city might turn over its public safety reigns to Los Angeles County.

Even then, she says, it was difficult to get the signatures needed for the last recall in 2007 that ousted Councilman Jeff Siccama for supporting a move that would have transferred city operated fire services to the County. The last recall election in the city occurred in 1932, she said.

“Any accusations from Kathy or Robert regarding the recall signatures is slanderous and not based on any evidence,” responded Robles on behalf of the recall campaign. “The recall campaign remained focused for 119 days in spite of harassment and intimidation …” added Robles.

The reported numbers of signatures gathered are based on the petitioners’ count. As of Wednesday afternoon, the city had not yet completed its own count. Once it has, the city will send the signatures to the County Registrar/Recorder to be verified that they belong to registered voters in Montebello.

The city has thirty business days to verify the signatures with the county and the earliest the city could have an answer is Sept. 9, according to Deputy City Clerk Lillian Guzman.

If enough signatures are verified, the election will likely be held as early as this December, following a regular city election in November.

The total signatures may also change if cards from residents asking to remove their names from the recall petitions are counted as well.

Salazar says she and Urteaga are working together as part of a group called “No on Recall” to fight the recall effort. Salazar says she obtained over 8,330 cards, while Urteaga, who did not respond to EGP by press time, also obtained a similar number of cards.

Salazar said the rescind cards that were turned in on Monday, the same day as the recall petitions, may not get counted because the submission deadline for the rescind cards is one day before the recall petitioners turn in their signatures.

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July 30, 2009  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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