Punch and Counter Punch: Commerce Recall Expands

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

Commerce Mayor Pro Tem Lilia Leon and Councilwoman Denise Robles were served with Notices of Intention to circulate recall petitions at Tuesday night’s city council meeting; two other council members were served last month.

At this point, only the city’s mayor, Joe Aguilar, seems to have avoided the recall flurry.

The same backers of the effort to recall councilmembers Ivan Altamirano and Tina Baca Del Rio, who were served last month, also at a council meeting, are also targeting Leon.

A different group is spearheading the recall of Robles, who is often at odds with her colleagues on issues that go before the council.

On Wednesday, Leon told EGP that she “allowed” herself to be served at Tuesday’s meeting so that if the recall effort qualifies for the ballot the city will avoid the cost of two separate recall elections. She denied accusations that she had been hiding out to keep from being served, telling EGP that a recent hip surgery was making it hard for her to get around, as well as causing her a lot of pain.

Leon said she prefers being on the recall ballot with “Team L.I.T.” (Lila, Ivan and Tina) rather then forcing the city to spend “another $50,000 on another election.”

Robles’ recall, however, came as a surprise to many, except perhaps to her. According to Robles, at the Oct. 8 meeting she felt current council members who believe she is behind efforts to recall them were threatening her with recall.

According to Altarmirano, Robles told council members that a recall proponent had threatened to recall her as well if she kept pushing him to stop his recall campaign.

Robles called the recall efforts against her unmerited. In an email Wednesday to EGP, she said she plans to file a complaint against Altamirano, Leon and Baca Del Rio with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for their “bullying tactics,” and for “making threats against my person in a fashion unbecoming to elected officials.”

She said she also plans to report Commerce City Attorney Eddie Olivo to the California State Bar for ethical violations, specifically for allowing council members to “threaten” her and for not helping her assert her freedom of speech rights.

Mayor Aguilar has said the recall election could cost the city upwards of  $33,000, not including staff costs.

Leon, Altamirano and Del Rio were elected just six months ago. Robles is up for reelection in March 2015.

Meanwhile the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) has confirmed that complaints have been filed against Altamirano and Del Rio by former Commerce council candidate Jaime Valencia and Resident Miguel (“Mike”) Alvarado respectively.

Valencia’s complaint against Altramirano alleges the councilman had failed to submit his campaign finance disclosure forms due on July 31. Altamirano told EGP on Wednesday that he filed the required 460 form 30 days late.

Alvarado’s complaint against Del Rio charges her with not filing required post-election documents, and inconsistencies in her pre-election financial reports, and also noted her history of not filing documents in a timely manner.n Tina was fined $26,000 in 2011 for not filing forms from 2005 to 2006, his complaint says.

The Commerce City Clerk’s Office on Wednesday confirmed that both De Leon and Altamirano are now current on their campaign filing statements.

The FPPC has confirmed they are in receipt of the complaints and are looking into them, but they have not yet made a determination as to whether the allegations have merit.

Valencia, who has identified himself as the spokesperson and primary proponent for the recall against Leon, Altamirano and Del Rio, denies accusations that he is just a disgruntled former candidate, and says the FPPC complaint and recalls have evidence behind them.

“…Like I said, the history [Del Rio’s campaign filings] goes back to before I got involved in politics,” Valencia told EGP on Tuesday.

“We’ll see how the recall takes course, I think I have more proof than I ever did before.” Valencia says other proponents of the recall are afraid to take the limelight because the council members—Del Rio in particular—are “vindictive.”

“One of the things I wanted to tell you, during last night’s council member reports, they were using last week’s [EGP] article to discredit me or to discredit the recall, and they were attacking me, I wanted to use this to show you how vindictive they are as to our last conversation,” Valencia said, underscoring his public admonishment as proof that council members retaliate against their critics.

Del Rio did not respond to EGP’s request for written comment on this article.

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October 17, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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