Commerce City Council recall, California (2014)

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An effort to recall several city council members from their positions on the City Council of Commerce in California was launched in August 2013.[1] The recall did not go to a vote.[2]

A group calling itself Commerce Residents for Better Government spearheaded the recall against Ivan Altamirano, Tina Baca Del Rio and Leila Leon. A man named Shawn Thomas, who cited no affiliation with the aforementioned group, coordinated the recall effort against Denise Robles.

The legality of the recall against Robles was called into question in December 2013 after it was revealed that Thomas was not a resident of the city.[3]


The recall effort against three of the four council members was led by a group of residents who believed the city council had been ineffective for the city.[1][4] Petitions against Baca Del Rio, Altamirano and Leon alleged that they raised taxes in the last election and voted to give a city employee a raise for running their re-election campaigns. Additionally, they noted that the three council members "cannot be trusted to be fair and independent."[5]

Supporters of the recall effort against Robles alleged that: "Robles has put our children in danger by allowing a convicted sex offender to live with her family in Commerce;” she “took a City car without permission to school. She knew it was illegal but did it because she did not want to pay for gas;” “Robles voted NO to helping fund the City’s Crush Volleyball program, which helps our girls get scholarships and go to college. When other Councilmembers voted YES, she got mad and began to stalk and threaten them.”[5]

In December 2013, it was revealed that Thomas, the person who coordinated the recall effort against Robles, lived outside of the industrial residential community and, furthermore, was not registered to vote. This called into question the legality of the recall effort.[6]

The Hews Media Group reported in April 2014 that Baca Del Rio was under investigation for campaign finance violations. Baca Del Rio was required to pay a $26,000 fine in 2011 for failing to file timely campaign statements.[7]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing recall in California

Recall supporters gave Altamirano and Baca Del Rio notices of intent to recall at a city council meeting on August 20, 2013. Leon was given notice the following day at city hall.[1] Robles was served with a petition in October 2013.

Petitions for Altamirano and Baca Del Rio were returned to recall supporters on October 4 for revisions. Supporters had 10 days to make the suggested revisions, which included spelling and grammar edits.[8]

In mid-February 2014, it was reported that recall petitions against Mayor Joe Aguilar, Leon, Baca Del Rio and Altamirano were still being circulated.[9]

In early March 2014, recall proponents claimed Leon had attempted to intimidate petitioners and signers. They alleged that, as petitioners were gathering signatures, Leon approached them and yelled at a petition signer, "Don't sign the petition."[10]

In mid-March 2014, recall proponents reported that they had turned in more than enough signatures to trigger recalls for Aguilar, Baca del Rio, Leon and Altamirano. Supporters claimed they had submitted over 2,100 signatures (1,577 valid signatures are required).[11]

In April 2014, the Los Angeles County Recorder's Office confirmed that three petitions were slated for certification on April 24, 2014. A Commerce city official indicated that one petition was still being circulated at that time. It was unclear which petitions applied to which council members.[12]

In early May 2014, the county found that the petitions lacked the necessary number of valid signatures to trigger a recall election. The Commerce City Council certified the county's finding on May 6, 2014, putting an end to the recall effort. Mayor Del Rio claimed during the May 6 meeting that 900-1,000 signatures had been forged by recall proponents and insisted that she wanted to "bring these individuals to justice."[2]

Recall proponent Jaime Valencia denied the allegations of forgery and said that recall proponents had hired an attorney to review the county's findings. Valencia said, "I can't really comment right now, all I can say is that we didn't do anything illegal."[2]

It was reported on May 15, 2014 that recall proponent Sylvia Ortiz was accused of forgery by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder. Ortiz was also accused of "willfully adding deceased people to the recall petitions." The Registrar-Recorder's office indicated it would ask the District Attorney to investigate the matter.[13]

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