Chin Ho Liao was elected to San Gabriel's City Council. So why won't they let him serve?

Got this news passed along to me from our friends at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center... In San Gabriel, California, Councilman-elect Chin Ho Liao was the second-highest vote-getter in the city's March elections, where the top three candidates are elected to the council. So why is Mr. Liao still fighting for his seat?

Despite his clear victory, the City Council voted not seat Liao and launched an investigation after a resident filed a complaint alleging that his true residence is outside the city's borders. The council has been holding hearings to determine Liao's residency: San Gabriel councilman-elect in residency fight for his seat.

The vote not to seat Liao was taken by the previously constituted council, which included two outbound incumbents who had been defeated in the March election, having lost to Liao. Instead of seating Liao or appointing a neutral third party to adjudicate the claim, and despite the potential conflict of interest, the council decided to hold a hearing on whether the challenge to Liao's residency is valid.

APALC's voting rights team, which is representing Liao in the hearing, says the council's actions and the entire hearing process is huge conflict of interest:

APALC argues that the allegations are meritless, and that those who voted against seating Liao are interfering with the electoral process on the basis of a single individual's claims. Further, APALC argues that the San Gabriel City Council cannot properly determine the issue of Liao's residency because of the body's present composition. The current council includes Kevin Sawkins, who ran as an incumbent and was Liao's leading opponent in the election, and John Harrington and Juli Costanzo, who endorsed Sawkins and the two incumbents who lost in the March election. The council also includes Jason Pu, a newly elected councilmember who joined Liao in winning a seat on the council in the election held on March 5, 2013. Because of the council's conflict of interest, APALC is concerned that Liao will not receive a fair hearing. Liao is participating in the hearing under protest in the interest of expediency.

Deanna Kitamura, senior staff attorney with APALC's Voting Rights Project said, “Although over 60 percent of San Gabriel residents are Asian American, immediately prior to the March election there were no Asian American members of the city council. The election was historic because two Asian American candidates won office, including Mr. Liao. Also significantly, voter participation in the election surged by 23 percent compared to the city's election in March 2011. The election should have been a celebration of new participation in the city's democracy. But because of actions taken by the council, residents of the city who voted to have Mr. Liao represent them as their councilmember are now being told that their votes don't matter, casting a shadow over the political process."
If you're in the San Gabriel on Saturday morning, you're invited to come to the hearing the support Chin Ho Liao and help put public pressure on the City Council:
A single resident filed a meritless challenge saying that Chin Ho is not qualified to take office because of problems with his residency requirements, and as a result the City Council voted AGAINST seating him, and we've had to argue at hearings this week and tomorrow morning that Chin Ho should be able to take his seat. We're concerned that there are many reasons why the Council's vote not to seat Chin Ho was biased and unfair, and that the hearing is also unfair because several of the Council members have a conflict of interest. We are also worried that the 1,740 API voters who voted for Chin Ho will be disenfranchised if he is not allowed to take office.

WE NEED AS MANY SUPPORTERS TO COME TO THE HEARING TOMORROW to help put public pressure on the City Council. If you have time tomorrow morning, please consider coming out to the hearing. The public support for Chin Ho could make a difference.

Where : The hearing will take place at the San Gabriel City Hall

425 S Mission Dr San Gabriel, CA 91776, 2nd Floor

When: Saturday, April 27 from 9am -12 noon
What's up with that, San Gabriel? For further information about the case, read APALC's press release: Concerned About Impact of Case on AAPI Political Voice, APALC and Bird Marella to Represent Liao in Hearing to Determine Eligibility to Serve on San Gabriel City Council.

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