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Commerce Council Member Served With Recall Notice

Two of three Commerce council members being targeted by the latest recall effort in the city, told EGP Wednesday that they were served with the “Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition” following Tuesday’s city council meeting; the first step in the recall process.

The notice does not contain the name of a particular group spearheading the recall effort, but is signed by 30 individuals, presumably all city residents.

Councilmembers Tina Baca Del Rio and Ivan Altamirano said the letter was handed to them by a man whose name they do not know, but added they have some ideas about who is behind the effort to recall them just five months after being elected to a new term of office.

Mayor Pro Tem Lilia Leon, believed to be the third member of the council being targeted, was not at Tuesday’s meeting, but in the hospital recovering from hip surgery. She told EGP Wednesday that she had been told there were rumors of a recall campaign being launched, but she had not yet been served. She too was reelected earlier this year.

While she had not yet seen the intent to recall letter, Leon characterized the recall as a “vendetta by politics” spearheaded by fellow councilmember Denise Robles and others. Leon said that until recently the council had worked well together, with nearly all major decisions being decided by unanimous vote, leaving the city on better footing than it has been since the start of the economic downturn and the state’s closing of redevelopment agencies statewide. She added, however, that the “cooperative” spirit changed soon after the last election, a sentiment echoed by Altamirano.

In March, Del Rio, Altamirano and Leon won their seats with a slight, but definitive lead over challengers Joanna Flores, Jaime Valencia and Art Gonzalez.

In an email to EGP, Altamirano called Robles a “sore loser,” noting that all three of the candidates she supported in the last election lost.

Del Rio, however, told EGP she believes there are other forces also at play, and they involve individuals who have failed to gain sway with the council over development proposals and a reworking of the city’s billboard and signage ordinances.

She called the reasons for recall stated in the letter “false,” particularly the accusation that “Baca Del Rio supported the measure to raise our taxes during the last election.” She said she voted against the Measure M, which was passed by voters in March.

The letter given to Del Rio, which she provided to EGP, also accuses her of failing to report the source of her campaign funds  and accusations of a financial payback to a city employee who worked on her last campaign; charges she flatly denies.

Details of the allegations against Altamirano and Leon were not available.

Recalls efforts are not new in Commerce, and often involve many of the same players and political operatives. Del Rio herself was recalled in 2008 only to be reelected a few months later. Former Councilman Robert Fierro survived that same recall campaign but later resigned after pleading guilty to a federal conspiracy charge for his role in an illegal campaign finance scheme. Altamirano was appointed to replace Fierro.

Ironically, Leon at the time supported the recalls of both Del Rio and Fierro, and was elected to her second stint on the council at the same time Del Rio was reelected. In 2012, she told EGP that she and Councilwoman Robles were visiting a different Commerce businesses every Friday to see how the city could improve its economic outlook: “We’re think outside of the box,” she said of their joint efforts on behalf the city.

EGP’s efforts to reach signers of the Notice of Intent on Wednesday to get comment on the recall campaign were unsuccessful. Efforts to reach Robles were also unsuccessful.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Notice of Intent letters had not yet been filed with the city clerk’s office, City Attorney Eduardo Olivo told EGP.