Two Compton City Council candidates are demanding that their chief opponent, Lynn Dymally, be disqualified because they say she does not meet residency requirements.
Candidates Floyd James and Marcine Shaw said last week in a letter to City Clerk Charles Davis that Dymally does not live where she claims she lives.
Dymally reported on her voter registration affidavit that she lives at an apartment complex on Bullis Road. But James said he visited the complex, Compton Manor apartments, and the building manager told him Dymally never lived there.
James, Shaw, Dymally and Vernell R. McDaniel are running for the District 2 council seat, which was left open when Councilwoman Patricia A. Moore decided to run for mayor. Voters will choose a new mayor, two new City Council members, a city clerk, a city attorney and a treasurer on April 20.
According to the Compton City Charter and state law, City Council candidates campaigning to represent a certain district must reside in that district for at least 30 days before filing their nominating papers.
The state Election Code is somewhat fuzzy in defining residency as a "fixed" habitation, a place where a person "has the intention of remaining and to which, whenever he or she is absent, the person has the intention of returning."
County records show that Dymally submitted a new voter registration affidavit last July, changing her home address from an apartment in council District 4 to the Bullis Road apartment complex, which is in District 2.
However, Beverly Gant, property manager for the Compton Manor apartments for the last seven years, said last week that Dymally had never been one of her tenants.
Gant said that a new tenant moved into the apartment Dymally reported was her home about a month ago. The previous tenant, Veronica Bass, had lived in the apartment for about five years and moved out last November, Gant said.
Dymally, a Compton Unified School District board member, could not be reached for comment, but her campaign manager, Michael J. Robbins, disputed Gant's claim. Robbins said that Dymally was, in fact, Bass' roommate, and has lived in the 2nd District for about two years. The 2nd District covers the area north of Compton Boulevard to the city limits and east of Willowbrook Avenue to the city's borders.
"The only thing that landlady can vouch for is that she didn't rent to Lynn Dymally, but that doesn't mean anything. She doesn't have a clue who lives in the building," Robbins said. "She just knows who she collects rent from."
But Gant insisted that if Bass had been sharing her apartment, she would have noticed. Compton Manor is a gated 66-unit apartment complex, and the manager's apartment is near Bass', the property manager said. "Veronica had no roommates, I know that for a fact," Gant said. "Everyone around here will tell you, the only people that lived there were Veronica and her son."
Bass could not be reached for comment. Robbins said that Dymally moved out of Compton Manor with Bass in November and is now living with a friend elsewhere in the district. He refused, however, to reveal Dymally's new address because, he said, she is in the midst of a divorce and does not want her estranged husband to know where she lives.
"I can state that she does live in the district and if necessary we can prove it in court," Robbins said. "All of this is defensible."
But James and Shaw want proof.
"I definitely don't think she lives in the 2nd District, and I have my doubts about whether she even lives in the city," Shaw said.
James said that Dymally should be required to present evidence to the city clerk proving she lives in the district.
"If someone does not qualify, then you must put them off the ballot," James said. "We must live up to the code."
Allegations that City Council candidates and certain elected officials live in the wrong district or in other cities have popped up every election season for years, City Clerk Davis said.
Councilwoman Moore has been accused of living in the wrong district, and some insist to this day that even though she is registered in District 2, she really lives in the Hollywood Hills. Recently elected Rep. Walter R. Tucker III was accused of living in Paramount during his congressional campaign. Even Davis himself, who has a house on Palm Street, has been the target of rumor because his wife owns a home in Buena Park. All three have denied the allegations.
Davis said he does not have the authority to challenge Dymally or remove her name from the ballot. The city clerk said the Election Code mandates that a clerk can check candidates' voter registration affidavits only to verify where they live and when they registered to vote. He said that when a person signs the affidavit, he or she swears, under the penalty of perjury, that all the information is true. The city clerk does not have the authority to ask for more proof, such as an electric bill, Davis said.
James and Shaw will have to get a court order to have Dymally's name removed from the ballot, he said.
Davis said that he, too, visited the Compton Manor address after a letter he sent to Dymally was returned stamped "Undeliverable as addressed. Unable to forward."
Upon being told that Dymally had never lived in the apartment complex, Davis said he called Dymally at her school district office to let her know what had happened. "She just said, 'OK, thanks,' " the city clerk said.