Failure to certify their statements are true moves the process back to square one

By Gary Walker

The campaign to recall Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin from office over his handling of much-maligned traffic reconfigurations in Mar Vista and Playa del Rey is back in the slow lane after hitting a paperwork roadblock.

The Los Angeles City Clerk’s office notified the Committee to Support the Recall of Mike Bonin on Nov. 20 that members had failed to include all necessary components in the legally required publication of a Notice of Intent to Recall Mike Bonin, which appeared as a paid advertisement in the Nov. 16 issue of The Argonaut.

Specifically, the document failed to include a signed affidavit stating that all the facts contained in the documents Statement of Reasons to recall Bonin are true. Reasons given included statements that local road diets have made commuters less safe, increased traffic congestion by 28% and damages small business. The document also accuses Bonin of misleading voters, silencing dissent and raiding Measure M transportation funding to implement them.

Due to election code requirements for timely filings, the invalidated Notice of Intent means committee members now have to start the process all over again, including serving Bonin with recall papers.

“The process that they’ve started has been terminated. Any time that they run out of time, that would terminate whatever they’ve started,” explained Thomas Reindel, the public services administrator for the L.A. City Clerk’s elections division. “The deadline for publication occurred after 14 days of [Bonin] being served.  They had until the 17th [of November] to notify the city clerk that the notice had been published. … They’ll have to start from square one.”

Some of Bonin’s supporters have taken to social media to relish in the fact that recall organizers failed to certify that their claims against Bonin are factually true.

“It is both suspicious and unsurprising that the recall proponents refused to sign the declaration that their published statements were true, because there were nearly two dozen lies crammed into their less than 300-word statement,” said Steve Barkan, a political consultant advising Bonin about the recall campaign.

A statement issued by the recall campaign brushed off the rejection as “only a minor hiccup” and used the occasion — specifically that the document went public without the recall campaign releasing it — to call the ethics of the City Clerk’s office into question.

“It came as a shock to see an email sent to the recall campaign by the [City] Clerk’s office appear on social media
and leaked to the press within less than 24 hours of it being sent. It is apparent that there is no distinguishable line between the L.A. City Clerk’s office and Councilman Bonin’s office,” the statement reads. “When questioned … the [City] Clerk’s office response was to claim a previous public records request from Bonin’s office.”

The group is contemplating whether to petition for independent oversight of the recall process.

“We’re challenging the impartiality of the City Clerk’s office. It’s unprofessional and unethical for the City Clerk’s office to send screen shots [of documents] to Bonin’s team or office,” said recall campaign spokesman Alexis Edelstein.

Recall campaign fundraising disclosures to the city Ethics Commission don’t immediately square with its public statements. In an Oct. 6 press release, the group claims to have raised more than $72,000, but its official disclosure of fundraising through Sept. 30 lists only $41,000 in contributions and a $20,000 loan from Edelstein.

Robert Stern, who headed the nonprofit Center for Governmental Studies, said fundraising exaggerations are common in politics and that the recall campaign’s failure to certify the truth of its Statement of Reasons was probably a “minor violation” of city election codes.

Of larger concern, he said, might be the optics of the campaign’s early stumbles.

“Some recall people are very unsophisticated, so it doesn’t surprise me that they couldn’t cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s,” said Stern. “It must be very frustrating for the recall people and satisfying for Bonin.”

A screenshot of the City Clerk’s office email was circulating online before the recall campaign told anyone about it