COMPTON — Residents are considering a legal challenge to the recent appointment of Deidre Duhart to represent Council District 1. She was nominated and appointed by a 2-1-1 vote during the April 5 City Council meeting.
Fifteen residents submitted applications for the appointment, with the council making nominations during the April 5 meeting.
City Attorney Eric Perrodin told the council that it had 30 days from the date the seat was declared vacant to make an appointment. Otherwise, the city would have to hold a special election.
Councilman Isaac Galvan initially nominated Jasper Jackson to the seat, but didn’t receive a second.
Councilman Jonathan Bowers nominated Fidel Marquez, a member of the Piru Street Block Club, but that also failed for lack of a second.
Councilwoman Lillie Darden thanked all the applicants for applying, and mentioned fielding “multiple calls” on who the community supports, and she was seeking an applicant that understood policy.
She then nominated Deidre Duhart, who has a long history with the city, previously serving as a liaison for former Councilwoman Yvonne Arceneaux and current Mayor Emma Sharif.
Duhart’s nomination was approved by a 2-1-1 vote, with Galvan abstaining, Bowers voting no, and Darden and Sharif voting yes.
Sharif then nominated Mary Edwards, which received a second from Darden, and a 2-1-1 vote. Both Darden and Sharif voted yes, with Bowers voting no and Galvan abstaining.
With both Duhart and Edwards receiving identical 2-1-1 votes, Sharif asked for the matter to be held over to the April 12 council meeting.
During the April 12 City Council meeting, there was a lack of a quorum, but the city attorney offered his legal opinion on what had transpired the previous week.
Perrodin said he spoke with outside attorneys who specialize in election law, particularly the process on how many votes are needed to pass the nomination.
“The vote to appoint Deidre Duhart to fill the vacant District 1 Council seat was 2:1 in the affirmative with one abstention which constitutes a majority of the council persons in favor of the appointment,” Perrodin said. “Due to the fact the charter is silent on the required number of affirmative votes necessary to fill a vacancy, it is my opinion as the city attorney of Compton that Deidre Duhart has been duly appointed to fill the vacant council seat in District 1.
“The framers of our city charter were silent on the number of affirmative votes necessary to fill a vacant seat but they were very clear that in order to have a legal council meeting to conduct business … at least three council members must be present,” Perrodin added. “The vote to appoint Deidre Duhart to the vacant District 1 seat is exactly a scenario the framers of our charter envisioned where mere majority of the council members voting would prevail. This analysis draws from standardized and routinely applied rules for interpreting statutory construction and legislative intent.”
Duhart was sworn in April 13.
Residents enlisted the assistance of attorney Albert Robles, the former mayor of Carson, to submit a “cure and correct” on the basis of Duhart’s appointment being affirmed with only two votes, during a meeting that lacked a quorum.
“Since there was no quorum present of the Compton City Council [April 12] that any city business was conducted and/or announcements made by anyone other than to declare the meeting canceled because of the lack of a quorum is illegal under the Brown Act,” Robles wrote in an email that was sent to the entire City Council and the city’s executive staff.
“In fact, the language of the Compton Charter at Section 607 cannot be any clearer as it expressly states ‘Unless a higher vote is required by other provisions of this charter, the affirmative votes of at least three members of the City Council shall be required for the enactment of any ordinance or resolution, or for the making or approving of any order for the payment of money.”
The regular City Council meeting April 18 took place with no indication the council would be removing Duhart from her seat.
Galvan asked the city attorney if he received the email, which he confirmed.
“He didn’t send this to me directly, and I think for him to challenge a legal opinion by the city attorney, he should have been man enough to send it to me personally,” Perrodin said.
“I did a legal opinion which I didn’t have to do, but I did. I made a public announcement which I didn’t have to do, but I did. And, I passed out copies to everyone,” Perrodin said. “I don’t do things behind closed doors.”
Perrodin reiterated it was a legal appointment.
“I will prepare a lawsuit seeking judicial intervention to correct this blatant disrespect of Compton residents,” Robles said when reached for comment. “Make no mistake, while the Compton Charter is what is clearly being violated in the illegal manner of how the vacancy for District 1 was filled, it is the residents of Compton who are being violated.”
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.