EL CENTRO — Imperial County CEO Tony Rouhotas Jr. has recently challenged a resolution of No Confidence by the Imperial County Democratic Central Committee (ICDCC) August 27, which charged him and Imperial County Registrar of Voters (ROV) Debbie Porter of racism which allegedly resulted in the County’s biased treatment of African-American citizens.
The resolution stated Rouhotas allegedly was aware of irregularities in Porter’s reluctance to publish names of candidates for election, alleged racist overcharging of an African-American senior citizen for copies of candidate records — claiming the rate was five times higher than what was charged to white individuals — and supposedly ongoing delay in copying candidate records requested by a Mexican-American woman. The resolution also stated the ROV allegedly allowed illegal extensions to allow a white candidate to submit a candidate ballot statement after already filing candidate papers and being sworn in as a candidate without a candidate ballot statement.
The ICDCC demanded that if Rouhotas and Porter do not resign, that the Imperial County Board of Supervisors remove them from their positions and Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla initiate independent investigations into supposedly criminal tampering with election documents and racism in the Imperial County Office of the Registrar of Voters.
The County of Imperial issued a press response that the aforementioned claims within the ICDCC resolution were unsubstantiated and false.
“It is the responsibility of the ROV, acting as the county elections official, to adhere to the California Elections Code, which governs elections held within the State of California,” the press release reported.
The County said the ROV has reviewed all paperwork submitted for the upcoming election in November and confirmed no candidate filed a candidate’s statement of qualifications after the August 7 deadline. According to the release, the County said the current fee schedule was established more than 20 years ago and has been “consistently and equitably followed at all times.”
Governed by the California Public Records Act (CPRA), all requests for copies of candidate statements and other elections records have been responded to “as expeditiously as possible within the time lawfully permitted.”
Supervisor and Chairman of the Board Luis Plancarte said, “In these times of political and social unrest, it is now more important than ever that those with influence in our communities ensure that they are exercising their voices in a responsible and professional manner. Baseless allegations of racism and disparate treatment are hurtful and injurious; not only to those that have been falsely accused of such conduct, but also to those individuals who have actually experienced such treatment and are advocating for change.”
The County requested the ICDCC take action to rescind the resolution.
Rouhotas and ICDCC First Vice Chair Hilton Smith, a coordinator for Imperial Valley Black Lives Matter, met Thursday, August 28, to discuss the resolution. ICDCC Chair Annette Gonzalez-Buttner, a member of the Imperial County Board of Education who is battling two felonies on residency claims, along with Smith responded to Smith’s meeting with Rouhotas.
Smith claimed Rouhotas said at their meeting, if the issue was not resolved and went to the press, he would meet Imperial County Counsel to discuss slander action against the ICDCC.
The ICDCC maintained their stance with the initial resolution adding an additional request to open an investigation against Rouhotas regarding his alleged threat to use tax-payer funded county public resources the support a personal civil action for perceived defamation.
In response to the request for state investigations, Rouhotas said, "To be honest, I hope they call me."
Rouhotas stood his ground, saying he and his department practice all rules and regulations and work fairly to ensure they do not discriminate against any group.
Additionally, ICDCC Board Member Michael Bandiera sent an email to Rouhotas that read, "I did not and do not support the resolution that came out in the Imperial Valley Press. In the 18 months or more that I have been reading the Imperial Valley Press, I have seen nothing that would imply you are a racist. In the Agriculture Benefits Committee where I have been attending meetings, I have seen you present yourself in a most professional way. The resolution is ill conceived and makes me wonder what they were thinking."