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Judge says L.A. Councilman Mitch Englander can't call himself a police officer on ballot

Judge says L.A. Councilman Mitch Englander can't call himself a police officer on ballot
The "police officer" designation that Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander, shown in June 2015, wanted to use on a ballotwasmisleading and "inappropriate," a judge said. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge sided Wednesday with candidates running against Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander in a race for county supervisor, ruling that Englander can't call himself a "police officer" on the ballot.

Englander is one of eight candidates running to replace retiring longtime Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. He described himself as "Councilmember/Police Officer" in his ballot designation.

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Three of his rivals -- prosecutor Elan Carr, State Sen. Bob Huff and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian -- challenged the description, saying it was intended to mislead voters into thinking Englander was a full-time cop, when he is actually a volunteer reserve officer. They sought a court order blocking the description from the ballot.

Judge Robert H. O'Brien agreed at Wednesday's hearing that the "police officer" ballot designation was misleading and called it "inappropriate."

He also said the word "reserve" should be added to a section in Englander's candidate statement, which now reads, "As a Police Officer, I patrolled our streets for over a decade."

The judge did not address a second issue raised by the opposing candidates, who argued that Englander should be required to specify which city's council he sits on, as much of the county district is outside the boundaries of the city of Los Angeles.

Stephen Kaufman, attorney for Englander's campaign, claimed victory on that count.

"We are pleased that the judge rejected the ridiculous claim that Mr. Englander did not have the right to describe himself as a 'councilmember,'" he said.

As to the "police officer" question, Kaufman said the judge thought the wording was "not specific enough to describe Mr. Englander's ongoing police service."

John Thomas, spokesman for Carr's campaign, also said he was pleased with the judge's decision.

"He agreed that Mitch Englander deliberately tried to mislead the voters ... by trying to say he's a full-time police officer when he's not," he said. "Englander did a disservice to all men and women who wear the badge full time."

Also Wednesday, O'Brien sided with a candidate in a second supervisorial race who challenged a rival's ballot designation.

Ralph Pacheco, a Whittier school board member who is running for the seat being vacated by Supervisor Don Knabe, challenged rival Steve Napolitano's description of himself as "LA County Deputy Supervisor." Napolitano is a field deputy to Knabe and the only Republican in the race.

Dave Jacobson, campaign spokesman for U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn, the third candidate in that race, said in a statement: "It's a sad state of affairs when a candidate is so desperate to gain traction in an election that they attempt to mislead voters about their occupation."

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Hahn was not a party to the challenge.

A spokeswoman for the county registrar-recorder's office said later Wednesday that the two candidates had submitted new ballot designations, which the registrar accepted.

Englander's new designation was "Councilmember/Reserve Policeman" and Napolitano's was "Supervisor's Senior Deputy."

The other candidates promptly challenged Englander's new title. Thomas said they believed the new title was still misleading because being a reserve officer is not Englander's principal occupation.

Twitter: @sewella

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