Vernon, Calif., the scandal-ridden Los Angeles County city that narrowly avoided being disincorporated in 2011, now faces allegations of voter fraud.
Debra Wong Yang, a retired judge, Tuesday overturned the results of a special election held to fill a vacant City Council seat.
Yang found that five voters were not city residents, and two others had improperly cast mail-in ballots, according to the judgment posted on the city’s website.
Yang was appointed to rule on allegations after two candidates questioned votes cast in the June 5 special election.
Based on Yang’s findings, Reno Bellamy received 27 votes for the council seat, and Luz Martinez received 30. Martinez, not Bellamy, should have been declared the winner.
The City Council will have to approve Yang’s findings.
The city is home to 1,200 businesses, but just 112 residents.
Over the past two years, three of Vernon’s former senior officials have been convicted of crimes relating to city activities — the mayor for voter fraud and conspiracy, the city administrator for misappropriation of funds, and the director the power utility on a felony conflict-of-interest charge related to the hiring of his wife as a contractor.
State legislators introduced a bill in December 2010 that would have disincorporated the city after years of complaints from neighboring communities about corruption and pollution from Vernon’s power generating station.
State Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, one of the disincorporation bill’s original co-authors, agreed to work with Vernon to defeat the bill if officials agreed to a series of reforms.
The disincorporation bill was defeated in September 2011.