Recall waters in the City of Commerce are even murkier following a decision by the city attorney that the newspaper the city has published its public notices in for nearly two decades does not qualify as a newspaper of general circulation as required by state election law, therefore disallowing three of four recall campaigns to move forward.
The City of Commerce has experienced more than its fair share of political tussles in recent years, including several recalls and two council members convicted of political wrongdoing. Today the city is once again in the midst of a political tug-of-war that has two different groups seeking to throw out four of the city’s five council members.
So far Mayor Joe Aguilar is the only member of the council who has not been served with papers notifying him there is an effort underway to remove him from his council seat.
A group going by the name Commerce Residents for Better Government and spearheaded by Jaime Valencia is seeking to recall Councilmembers Tina Baca Del Rio, Ivan Altamirano and Lelia Leon.
Shawn Thomas, who cited no group affiliation, has filed a petition to recall Councilwoman Denise Robles.
In a three-page letter to Jaime Valencia, Deputy City Clerk Victoria Alexander informed him that “unfortunately” City Attorney Eduardo Olivo had determined that the Notice of Intent to Circulate Recall Petitions published in the Commerce Comet, Eastside Sun and 9 other neighboring newspapers do not “satisfy the requirement” of Government Code 6000 to 6004.5, “for a newspaper of general circulation in the City of Commerce” because it is not printed or published in the city. Alexander’s letter, however, also notes that “we are not aware of any newspaper that satisfies this statutory requirement.”
Jaime Valencia has himself unsuccessfully sought election to the council on multiple occasions and has backed other recall efforts. He is calling foul this time around, however, and says the decision preventing the current recall effort from moving forward “ridiculous.”
He said he asked the city if the Commerce Comet does not meet the adjudication requirement, what newspaper does? But has not received an answer.
According to Valencia, he and others were “shocked” by Olivo’s decision since the city publishes all of its public notices in the newspaper. When asked, he said former Interim City Clerk Theresa Jackson confirmed that the Commerce Comet is where the city publishes its public notices required by state law..
He wanted to know why the recall of Denise Robles was allowed to proceed when it was published in the same newspapers?
During a Tuesday phone interview, Olivo told EGP that the difference is the proponents of the recall effort against Robles had also posted the notice in three separate public locations as required by law when there is not a recognized newspaper of general circulation in the jurisdiction of the person being recalled, which Valencia had failed to do.
EGP Associate Publisher Jonathan Sanchez, however, points out that the Eastside Sun’s county adjudication extends to all 11 newspapers in the group, including the Commerce Comet, because the newspapers carry the same content, carry the Eastside Sun name on the mastheads, and Commerce is located in the County of Los Angeles.
No other newspaper carries as much coverage of the city as the Commerce Comet, Sanchez asserts.
Last week, during the city council meeting, Robles asked the adjudication issue be placed on the next city agenda. She said she is getting inquiries from the community. She said she was surprised when she learned of the city attorney’s opinion.
Robles said she wants to know how the decision will impact the city, including the validity of notices previously published in the Commerce Comet.
Olivo told EGP that the item is on next Tuesday’s City Council meeting, and that his office will be making a report to the council.
He further noted that his opinion was specific to the recall issue, adding that other considerations can be taken into account when publishing public notices related to planning and other city activities.