Compton residents call on city councilman accused of election fraud and bribery to resign
Adriana Orozco was home last week when she got a text message about the arrest of Compton City Councilman Isaac Galvan.
Galvan had been charged with one count each of election fraud and bribery, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Galvan had already been the subject of a federal investigation into cannabis corruption in Baldwin Park, a town 24 miles away.
“I’m ashamed,” Orozco said. “Compton doesn’t deserve this.”
On Friday afternoon, more than an hour before the city’s outdoor inauguration ceremony — where Galvan was to be sworn in for another term as councilman — Orozco joined a dozen other residents outside City Hall to call on him to resign.
Jasmyne Cannick, a political strategist and activist, said during a news conference that county officials should overturn the election results. She also called on Compton officials to pressure Galvan to resign or find ways to limit his participation in government committees.
“It’s a seat he didn’t rightfully earn,” Cannick said. “He should not be getting sworn in.”
Prosecutors allege that Galvan conspired with Jace Dawson, an opponent from April’s primary, to direct voters from outside the council district to cast ballots for Galvan in a June runoff that ultimately was decided by one vote.
Galvan collected 855 votes, while Andre Spicer, a Compton native and entrepreneur, received 854 ballots in the runoff election, according to the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder.
Four other people were charged with conspiracy to commit election fraud.
Compton City Councilwoman Michelle Chambers said she would not attend the inauguration ceremony to protest Galvan’s participation.
“As we’re changing our image and our trajectory here in our city, it is imperative that our leaders serve with integrity, honesty, make ethical judgments and display ethical conduct,” she said. “All of the traits that Councilman Galvan misunderstood and disregarded.”
Prosecutors allege that Galvan attempted to bribe an employee of the registrar’s office with concert tickets to influence the election results.
Galvan and Dawson have pleaded not guilty and were released on their own recognizance last week. A court hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 17.
Galvan was elected in 2013 when Compton switched to voting by district. He became the first Latino and youngest councilman in the city.
Many residents of his district, which include Orozco, said they have been disappointed by Galvan’s leadership. They say that he rarely shows up to council meetings and that it is difficult to schedule meetings with him or members of his staff.
“He’s a no-show. A ghost,” Orozco said. “We don’t need a ghost in office.”
She said the streets in her district need repaving and trees need trimming. Orozco said she also grew tired of seeing Galvan running into legal problems.
In November, federal investigators served a search warrant at his home as part of an investigation into marijuana licensing practices in Baldwin Park, sources told The Times.
Galvan was also subpoenaed to testify in grand jury proceedings that ultimately led prosecutors to bring corruption and bribery charges against former Maywood Mayor Ramon Medina and nine others this year, according to an official familiar with the investigation.
Galvan invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination during those proceedings and refused to answer questions, the official said.
Spicer, who fell one vote short of Galvan in June, said he suspected fraud early in the race.
Spicer said his concerns were validated June 7 when Kimberly Chaouch, a former volunteer for Dawson’s campaign, reached out to his staff and told them she had “committed voter fraud.” (Chaouch is one of the people now charged with conspiracy to commit election fraud.)
“They asked her, ‘What do you mean?’ And she said … she registered to vote from his house and she knows about 20 other people who did the same thing,” he alleged.
According to Spicer, Chaouch said she’d been hired by Galvan’s campaign during the runoff. But it failed to pay her, so she decided to speak out, Spicer said.
At Friday’s inauguration ceremony held outside Compton City Hall, several residents stood holding signs that read “Galvan must resign now.”
Under the hot sun, elected officials were sworn in and made brief statements to guests sitting in fold-up chairs. As part of her speech, Compton Mayor Emma Sharif addressed the allegations made against Galvan.
“They’re shocking and I take them very seriously,” she said. “Election integrity is the cornerstone of our democracy.”
Sharif told residents that she and the City Council would look into the issue.
Listening and sitting in the crowd was Roger C. Evans, a resident of 50 years. He said that he hopes the city will move forward in a better direction and that elected officials will do the right thing.
“I’ll be watching them,” he said. “I’ll be watching my elected officials.”
As for Galvan, he never showed up to the inauguration.
Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.
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