Ballot Measure Backers Say Their Mail Isn't Arriving : Complaint: Post office investigation is asked by group that wants to ban most health and public education benefits for illegal immigrants.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Organizers of Save Our State's proposed immigration-reform initiative called Wednesday for an investigation of the Santa Ana post office, claiming that checks and signed petitions mailed by supporters were not being delivered to the campaign's Tustin headquarters.

About 30 supporters of the initiative gathered Wednesday morning in front of the post office on Sunflower Avenue to draw attention to their demand. Chairman Ron Prince said the group has received dozens of calls from supporters who wondered why their checks hadn't been cashed and their requests for more petition forms had gone unanswered.

Bob Kiley, a political adviser to the initiative campaign, said the group had been expecting a rush of mailed petitions and donations in the days after an April 1 deadline the campaign set for workers, but the expected flood of mail never materialized.

After failing in attempts to reach post office officials directly, Kiley said, campaign organizers asked Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) to get the post office to look into the suspected disappearance of mail destined for the SOS campaign.

Pat Fanelli, district administrator for Dornan's office, said that the office receives requests from constituents for inquiries to federal agencies every day, and that it had passed along the request to postal authorities. "It's a standard thing," Fanelli said.

Bob Gillis, manager of the Santa Ana post office, which daily handles 6 million pieces of mail to and from Orange County, said the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has begun to investigate.

"At this point, there's no specific evidence yet of mail lost or tampered with," Gillis said. "I have the highest regard for the integrity of our employees." He added: "Anytime we get a complaint we take it very seriously. . . . If they give us specific information, we will always investigate."

Harold Ezell, a co-author of the initiative, which calls for denying illegal immigrants most public education and health benefits, said he believes someone may be "stacking the mail to keep it from getting to us."

Initiative supporters said they could not afford to wait for a two- or three-week investigation. The group has until April 22 to submit petitions bearing the signatures of 395,000 registered voters in order to get the initiative on the November state ballot, and has 310,000 so far, Ezell said. It may request an extended deadline of at least 10 days on grounds that the mail problem caused a setback, he said.

Kiley said the group will wait for results of the Postal Service inquiry before deciding what to do next. "We're considering requesting an extension, but I don't think we need it," he said.

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