By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"Where someone decides to vote is their constitutional right," he argued. "I don't know when this turned into a Joseph McCarthy hearing."
Bernard Roberts was first on the stand. Cupping his hand to his ear to hear the questions, Roberts testified that he visits his grandson, Jason, at a house in Vernon, but doesn't live there. He also testified that his son, Dennis, lives with him in Arizona.
When Dennis Roberts took the stand, he told an even more convoluted story.
"I do live there [in Arizona]," he said. "I live there, and I live here. I live both places. I'm here at least once a month."
It emerged that Bernard's grandson Jason Roberts is the only person who lives at the family's Vernon house full-time. But three relatives — his father, grandfather and brother — registered at that address and cast ballots for Bellamy.
Dennis Roberts has twice confirmed his Arizona address to investigators who pretended to have a package for delivery. But after they called a third time, he got angry and called back. According to testimony at the hearing, he told them, "We're gonna get all you sons of bitches when this is over."
On the stand, Dennis Roberts said he plays golf for a living, though he hasn't filed income taxes in a while. Asked what prompted him to get involved in Vernon, he said he had gotten to know Curtis Fresch on the links.
"I played a lot of golf with Curt," he testified. "It's very possible he advised me about the availability of a house."
Two more Bellamy voters, Glenn and Dean Gulla, testified that they spend most of their time at a desert ranch on a dirt road in Lucerne Valley. The brothers operate soda and candy machines all over Southern California. They claim that when they're on their restocking routes, they sometimes stay with relatives Brad and Duane Gulla in their Vernon apartment, though two neighbors testified they've never seen the men there.
The Chamber's investigators were unable to find two additional Bellamy voters who also are registered at the same address; that makes a total of six adult residents in a two-bedroom apartment.
In an interview with the Weekly outside the hearing, Dean Gulla said he first became acquainted with Vernon through Councilman Rick Maisano, who managed the carwash he worked at in Manhattan Beach — until Gulla was fired for taking $5,000 out of the company safe. In his defense, Gulla said Maisano had given him permission to take the money as a loan. Nevertheless, he was convicted of theft.
Gulla was more forthcoming than some of the others about Curtis Fresch. Maisano and former Councilman Dan Newmire are friends with Fresch, he said. The election contest was a battle between that group, which had been in charge until recently, and the Chamber.
"I didn't agree with everything the council did when we were in [power]," Gulla said. "Now they want their own people in, and we're fighting to stay here. If their side wins, they're gonna evict us all."
Debra Wong Yang, the city's hearing officer, is set to rule on the disputed ballots any day. If she throws the suspicious votes for Bellamy out, Martinez would be declared the winner.
Reno Bellamy believes a conspiracy is afoot to thwart his victory.
"The city can be bought and paid for," Bellamy said.
Update, 10/15/2012: Vernon Election Result Overturned; Hearing Officer Finds Out-Of-Towners Illegally Tipped Result