San Gabriel City Council Elections End in Controversy
By Joe Castillo
April 3, 2013 • 999 views
Your Right to Vote Denied …. Just when you thought you’ve seen it all in city politics, along comes something right out of the twilight zone. In an extremely rare, unprecedented and even historical city council session, the City of San Gabriel voted against the seating of a newly elected city official. Chin Ho Liao, the second highest receiver of votes in last months’ municipal elections, was denied his claim to be added to the City Council. In front of an overflow and agitated crowd, the City Council passed two motions to allow a challenge to the qualifications of Liao and to only certify the election results of two of the three contested City Council positions. The two motions brought out the emotions of the crowd, a parade of San Gabriel residents marched to the podium; lawyers exchanged legal opinions and city council members tried to wrestle with their legal options. It was an example of how democracy is not supposed to work. In what was to be a session filled with a celebration of two new council members, both of Chinese descent, and the gracious exit of two outgoing council members, both of Hispanic descent, instead it turned into an example of city mismanagement. It was supposed to be a changing of the guard in San Gabriel, with over 60% of city residents having an Asian heritage, this was their voices finally being heard. But instead the City Council session turned into an open forum on the qualifications of Liao with lawyers citing legal references while pleading their cases, and the electorate speaking their support but none of their representatives bothered to listen. The City of San Gabriel is solely responsible for this failure in the American election process. Candidates for city positions are validated by city officials when candidacy papers are taken out. In the case of Liao, this was his second attempt at running for City Council with the first coming in 2011. Questions were raised then about his residency but no action was taken. In this election, questions were raised again, and again no action was taken. The City moved forward in the election process even with concerns of Liao’s qualifications unresolved. The election was held and the residents of San Gabriel did their part and voted for their candidate of choice. Jason Pu, Liao and Kevin Sawkins were the highest vote winners and were scheduled to be seated. After the election, one person filed a challenge, a challenge that is filled with unproven allegations, invalidated facts, personal opinions and a threat of legal action. Then something strange happened on the way to the installation ceremony, a special session of City Council was called and lawyers got involved. First the City Attorney got involved, then the City Attorney’s legal firm partners, then Liao’s attorney, then Liao’s attorney’s partner, then the Mayor who’s a lawyer and the council member who’s a lawyer, all made some legal comment. Once lawyers get involved, all common sense and logic disappears. Threats of a lawsuit against the city came from the author of the challenge, from Liao’s lawyer, and from anyone who might want to file a claim that their vote did not count. The City Council session turned into a squabble of legalese, a reverse play of what the real issue was, the real issue being the foundation of the American electoral system. The right to vote for the candidate of your choice is what makes this country special. When your vote doesn’t count, then something is terribly wrong. In the City of San Gabriel, something is terribly wrong. You’ve just cast your vote in the twilight zone and even though your candidate won, your vote doesn’t count…..