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Preliminary election results favor recall of Carson's controversial city clerk

Last year, the Carson City Council voted to remove Jim Dear's name from a handful of street signs. Now, residents appear poised to remove the controversial city clerk from municipal office.  

In semi-official ballot results Tuesday, 53.8% of voters supported recalling Dear, according to Sue Herbers, a former city clerk who was asked to administer the recall election.

"That's the trend," Herbers said Wednesday. "It's not official yet." 

Final vote results won't be certified until around March 15, she said.

The embattled city clerk has a lengthy resume as Carson official: He joined the City Council in 2001 and served as mayor from April 2004 until March 2015. In 2008, he survived a recall effort.

This second recall effort, began less than a year after Dear took office in March 2015, was stoked by allegations of instability, racism and intimidating behavior.  

According to a report commissioned by the city last year, Dear's behavior caused staff to feel uncomfortable and fearful that he might lash out physically. They also complained that Dear made frequent comments about race, and often criticized non-white employees unfairly. 

During interviews, city staff described the clerk as appearing unstable. One told investigators that he would get "crazy eyes," while another described him as "the kind of person I can picture going postal." 

As a result of the investigation, the City Council voted to censure Dear and limit his access to City Hall.

Dear has said that the allegations against him were fabricated by jealous political foes. Dear did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

On Wednesday, petition organizers said they were elated by the preliminary vote results.

"I am so proud of the Carson community," said Vera DeWitt, who spearheaded the recall effort. "We all came together and worked on this recall .... Carson is a good community and we're going to move forward."

In a ballot statement, Dear listed the ways he had helped improve the city over the past 14 years, including with new restaurants and proposing an NFL stadium. He said that in his years of service, there had been "a powerful legacy of honest leadership."

"As your mayor I brought about a new era of clean government to Carson," he wrote. "Since my election in March 2015, I have served faithfully as city clerk."

If the vote to recall Dear is certified in March, he will be replaced by Donesia Gause, a former city clerk who lost to Dear in the 2015 election. Gause was listed as the only replacement clerk on the recall ballot and won 4,627 votes. 

In 2015, the City Council voted to remove Dear’s name from five “Jim Dear Blvd” signs that were erected along an unfinished roadway.  Dear had pushed to change local regulations that required street signs to be named after dead people and then proposed his own name when the law was changed. In voting to remove Dear’s name, council members argued that he didn’t deserve the distinction, according to the Daily Breeze.

Carson is no stranger to political controversy. Its current mayor, Albert Robles, is facing an inquiry from county prosecutors about where he lives. That inquiry followed a Los Angeles Times report that raised questions over whether the mayor actually lives in Carson or in the Adams-Normandie neighborhood of Los Angeles. 

There was also a lawsuit filed in January by the Los Angeles County district attorney regarding Robles' position as director of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. In the suit, prosecutors asserted that the mayor or a city councilman in Carson could not simultaneously hold a seat on the regional water board. 

Prosecutors claim in the lawsuit that holding both offices constitutes a conflict of interest and violates California law. 

Times staff writers Richard Winton, Rong-Gong Lin II and Ruben Vives contributed to this report.

Follow me on Twitter @brittny_mejia.

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