More than four months after Los Angeles County election officials declared a winner in the Vernon council race, the Vernon City Council on Monday declared a new winner, accepting the “findings, conclusions, and recommendations” of a special hearing officer brought in to independently evaluate claims of voter fraud during the June 5 Special Municipal Election.
By a 3-to-0 vote, Vernon city council members during Monday’s special meeting accepted the decision rendered by Vernon Election Contest Hearing Officer Debra Wong Yang, who heard three days of testimony related to charges by the Vernon Chamber of Commerce that as many as 10 non-Vernon residents had voted illegally.
Yang disqualified 7 of the ballots cast, swinging the election from Reno Bellamy to Luz Martinez, who won by three votes.
Martinez was sworn in following the council’s certification of the vote, according to a statement put out by the city. She will fill out the term left vacant by the retirement of former Mayor Hilario Gonzalez.
“I take my new responsibilities very seriously. I pledge to work hard as your Council member. I pledge to fairly represent the interests of our city’s residents and voters. I pledge to support our businesses and their workers. If business and labor work together – as they have in the past – we can achieve great things in our city,” said Martinez in the city’s news release.
She went on to say that the city is facing new challenges, but she is confident they can be overcome “if we stay on the road to reform our city.”
In other related city business, the council voted 4-0 to make William “Bill” Davis, Vernon Mayor Pro Tem for the past year, Vernon’s new mayor. The position of mayor is not an elected post, but one that is bestowed by members of the city council.
“For the past year, I have been very proud to serve as our city’s Mayor Pro Tem. I have learned a great deal. I have grown tremendously,” Davis said, according to the city’s release.
“ I have come to greatly appreciate the role and responsibility of leadership. I am honored that my fellow Council members have placed their faith in me by choosing me to serve as Mayor of the City of Vernon.”
He said the city fought off disincorporation and has implemented many “important reforms that have opened the door to a New Vernon. We have more reforms to implement that can help make our city a model city. I am honored to be able to do my part to bring these important changes about.”
Councilman W. Michael McCormick, will succeed Davis as Vernon’s Mayor Pro Tempore.