The San Gabriel City Council voted to seat councilman-elect Chin Ho Liao on Monday, concluding a series of public hearings sparked by a resident’s election fraud complaint.
Liao was the second highest vote-getter in the city’s March elections, but the council voted not to seat him after Fred Paine accused Liao of living outside the city.
As part of the same action in March, the council began its own inquiry into the question of Liao’s residency. Two ousted incumbents provided two of the votes to launch the hearings, prompting raised eyebrows from election experts.
During three days of courtroom-style hearings last month, Liao provided evidence of his intent to move to San Gabriel and called witnesses to testify that he was living in a rented apartment within the city’s borders before and after seeking nomination papers.
Liao lived in a home with his wife in an unincorporated part of the city known as east San Gabriel, but twice rented apartments within city borders before running for election.
Attorney Nilay Vora, in partnership with a legal team from the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, argued that Liao’s moving patterns were partially caused by a rocky marriage and stressed that Liao always intended to move within the city’s borders.
Vora and the center’s attorneys represented Liao for free because they believed Asian voters were being disenfranchised. The city’s population is about 60% Asian, but the council has seen just two elected council members of Asian descent in its 100-year history.
Liao’s case also drew support from U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) and Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) during a joint news conference last week.
Paine’s attorney, Arnold Alvarez-Glasman, argued that Liao’s moving patterns were a cynical attempt to meet requirements of office, comparing Liao to a carpetbagger.
On Monday afternoon, the council rejected Paine’s complaint and voted 3 to 1 to seat Liao at Tuesday’s regular council meeting. Councilman John Harrington was the dissenting vote.
Paine’s wife, Suzanne, said they do not plan to launch an appeal of the council’s decision.