Ballots turn up missing in disputed mayoral race

The Associated Press
Saturday November 17, 2001

COMPTON — A box of 1,500 unused absentee ballots from the city’s hotly contested mayoral election turned up missing, adding another bizarre twist to a lawsuit alleging that voter fraud, bribery, perjury and death threats tainted the election. 

It was the first day of a court-ordered review of the June 5 election, in which Eric Perrodin beat Mayor Omar Bradley by 261 votes. The review is expected to take at least three days to process the 10,600 ballots cast. 

Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies were dispatched Thursday to retrieve the ballots, but city officials said they were accidentally left behind at city hall. They promised the ballots would be turned over Friday. 

Outside court, Bradley said the confusion over the missing ballots strengthens his claims that he was cheated out of the election. 

“This is unheard of, unheard of,” he said. 

His attorney, Bradley Hertz said: “In the least, the city clerk has a disorganized office and at most, perhaps, a cesspool of illegalities.” 

Bruce Gridley, the attorney for the city, denied any wrongdoing by the city clerk and said the mistake was made earlier this month when sheriff’s deputies picked up boxes of ballots from another previous election. 

The battle of the ballots began Thursday, with Bradley hoping to prove that Perrodin’s supporters used fraud to claim victory. 

Bradley has filed a civil lawsuit, claiming his challenger conspired with City Clerk Charles Davis and others to defeat him. Hertz said earlier this week at the jury-less trial that he intends to show Perrodin’s supporters pulled guns on voters at precincts, forged ballots from “ghost voters,” bused non-residents to the polls and arranged for dozens of absentee voter applications to languish at a post office. 

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of troubles for the impoverished Los Angeles suburb, which has long been plagued by corruption, violence and poverty. 

In 1993, the state took over a school district marred by mismanagement, corruption and low student achievement. Local control was restored in September. 

In 1995, Democratic Congressman Walter Tucker was convicted of taking $30,000 in bribes while he was mayor in 1991. The same federal probe led to the conviction of Patricia Moore for extorting bribes while on the City Council from 1989 to 1993.