Quoted in this article
in the Pasadena Star.
SAN GABRIEL-- Election
experts and fair government advocates questioned a decision made last
week by the San Gabriel City Council not to seat Councilman-elect Chin
Ho Liao because of a challenge filed with the city questioning his
Doug Johnson, a fellow at the Rose Institute of State and Local
Government at Claremont McKenna College, said the council's decision not
only to refuse to seat Liao but also launch its own investigation into
his true residency was "very unusual. "
"It's a question for a court to remove him from office, the city is
on shaky ground in trying to refuse to seat him," Johnson said.
"Councils aren't really judicial bodies. "
The city received a complaint and threat of litigation from resident
Fred Paine on March 19 against Liao. In turn, Liao's attorney George Yin
has threatened legal action against the city.
Though Liao was the second-highest vote-getter in the March 5 vote,
the old council - which included ousted incumbents Mario De La Torre and
David Gutierrez - voted Tuesday not to swear him in along with the
other winners, incumbent Kevin Sawkins and newcomer Jason Pu.
The council also voted to hold a public hearing to determine whether
Liao can be seated on the council. Assistant City Manager Marcella
Marlowe said the city has not yet determined the details.
Only Councilwoman Juli Costanzo voted against the council hearing,
that the issue be referred to an outside party. But Councilman John
Harrington said Tuesday he did not want to "shirk" the responsibility.
"If someone raises a question, it's my job to investigate," Harrington said. "My goal is to make sure justice is done. "
Many residents spoke out against the council's decision Tuesday,
accusing the council of going against "the will of the people." During
the tense campaign, Liao did not deny that he had moved from the home
where his wife and daughter still live in to a San Gabriel apartment six
months before the election.
Costanzo and Harrington endorsed Sawkins, De La Torre and Gutierrez,
who ran as a unit. The three brought up Liao's residency during the
Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said the council's decision prematurely convicts Liao.
"If someone is elected, until it's been proven that person doesn't
live in the district, I'm not clear that just based on their own
findings that they do have power to just not seat someone," Levinson
said. "And it seems to be there is kind of a conflict of interest here
when the losing incumbents decide to hold hearings on basically whether
or not they should be replaced."