The city of Vernon is continuing to look into allegations of voter fraud, as mail-in ballots are being distributed for the April 10 council election.
John Van de Kamp, the city's ethics adviser, has sent investigators to interview the residents of a small, three-bedroom house where nine people are registered to vote.
One of the residents of the house, Hector Moreno, is an employee of a Manhattan Beach car wash where an incumbent councilman, Richard Maisano, is the manager.
Moreno is not registered to vote, because he is not a citizen. But two other Morenos are registered to vote there.
In an interview Friday, Maisano acknowledged his connection to Moreno but said he did not believe anything underhanded is going on. He said Moreno is one of the “finishers” at Red Carpet car wash, and has lived in the city-owned house for four to five years.
“I think it's all blown out of proportion by one of the… candidates,” Maisano said, interrupting an acupuncture session to speak with the Weekly. “It's just a mix-up in registration… I think it's just a hiccup in the system.”
Vernon has only 70 registered voters, so even a few fraudulent registrations could turn the election. The city council is currently split into two equal factions, with Maisano and Dan Newmire on one side, and Bill Davis and Michael McCormick on the other.
Newmire is facing challenger Michael Ybarra in the April 10 vote. In an interview, Ybarra said he's hoping that Van de Kamp can sort the situation out.
“If people do live there, they have the right to vote. I'm not questioning that,” Ybarra said. “But do they live there?”
Ybarra lives across the street from the house with nine registrants, and he says he knows only four who actually live there.
Van de Kamp said his investigators have been able to confirm that five people live in the house. But they have not gotten in touch with the other four who are registered there.
“We need to run down some of these people to find out what the story is,” Van de Kamp said.
Van de Kamp said he expected to complete his report sometime next week.
Update: Dean Gulla, another Red Carpet car wash employee, is registered to vote in Vernon at an address on 50th Street.
Update 2: Marisa Olguin, president of the Vernon Chamber of Commerce, says, “We hope the people who really truly live in Vernon will vote and those who don't live in Vernon won't vote.”