Quintana Will Learn His Fate Tuesday
One of the region’s longest-running political cliffhangers may be resolved Tuesday, when Mayor Stan Quintana faces the voters in a bitterly contested recall election.
“This is costing a lot of turmoil in the City Council itself,” Councilman Art Olmos, a Quintana supporter, said of the yearlong dispute. “We can’t really concentrate on regular business.”
But the issue may not be over Tuesday. Even if recall proponents prevail, the election could be thrown out. Quintana continues to challenge the recall petitions, which were signed by 25% of the city’s 4,943 voters.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which seized the petitions in September, has not finished an investigation of alleged improprieties by signature gatherers, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Tom Wenke.
Quintana has said that non-residents circulated petitions and that recall proponents had misrepresented his actions to obtain signatures.
“In a recall election,” Quintana said in September, “all you have to do is not like the way somebody combs his hair to file a petition against him.”
Opponents of Quintana, a 13-year veteran of the council who was recalled by voters in 1977, say he has engaged in “corrupt practices” and “immoral spending” while on the council. They also say he has been an embarrassment because of his conviction last month for filing a false police report in connection with a traffic accident. Quintana was elected again in 1984.
Two fellow councilmen who defend Quintana say the charges come from a handful of businessmen angry about his support for redevelopment and other issues.
Even Quintana’s defenders say he may be facing an uphill battle because of last month’s criminal case. “It’s one of the things that really went negative against him,” said Councilman Albert G. Perez.
According to police, Quintana was involved in a three-car accident on Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel in October. Rather than reporting the accident, police said, Quintana fabricated a story to explain the damage to his 1990 Lincoln Mark VII.
On Dec. 18, after pleading no contest to a charge of filing a false police report, Quintana was sen tenced to two days’ duty on a Caltrans freeway cleanup crew and fined $500. He was also placed on two years’ probation.
Quintana, who has been mayor for two years, did not return repeated telephone calls. When he was approached by a reporter at last week’s council meeting, he ducked into a private office. Later in the evening, he said he would not discuss the recall issue.
Perez said the mayor was concerned about the bad publicity he had received. “People should realize that anyone is vulnerable to that kind of situation,” Perez said. “It’s only by God’s grace that a lot more people aren’t caught.”
But recall supporters have been hitting hard at the mayor’s refusal to comment on the traffic incident. “I call it irresponsible behavior,” said Councilman Raul Pardo. “He refused to acknowledge he had a responsibility to talk to the people about his action. An elected official has no rights, except to be responsive to the public’s concerns.”
Quintana’s opponents say he was instrumental in a series of unpopular council actions, such as granting a rubbish-hauling monopoly in the city to a company run by a Quintana associate and approving a 27% raise for City Manager Raul T. Romero after four middle-management employees had been fired in budget cuts. He also backed a redevelopment project that has been challenged in court.
Two of Quintana’s fellow councilmen criticize him for using city money to wage his anti-recall battles in court. Up to two weeks ago, the city had paid $35,000 in legal fees related to the case, said Councilman Jim Kelly.
Both sides have been waging door-to-door campaigns, but neither is optimistic about a big turnout Tuesday. Fewer than 25% of voters turned out for last April’s councilmanic elections, and special elections usually attract only the most motivated voters.
The polls will be open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. In addition to deciding whether Quintana should be recalled, voters must decide, if he is recalled, whether to replace him in a special election or with a candidate selected by the council.