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Threat from activist alleged

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Recall backers call allegation ‘dirty trick’

By Mercy Lopez

City officials are accusing one of the organizers of the mayoral recall effort of threatening the city clerk, but organizers are firing back, calling the allegation nothing more than a dirty trick.

A police report was filed on the incident and it has been forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review.

At issue is a Thursday morning telephone conversation between recall organizer Lorenzo Flores and Gloria Medina, the office manager in the mayor’s office. Flores was unhappy with an ad placed in the Optic last week by a private citizen and was trying to reach out to City Clerk Casandra Fresquez to complain. The ad, which ran in Wednesday’s edition and then again on Friday, was directed at people who signed the petition to recall Mayor Alfonso Ortiz.

It states, “Some people signed a petition to recall the mayor. They now know they were misinformed. You can take your name off that petition by signing below.” The ad then instructs people to submit the filled out form to the city clerk or to Loretta Lopez, the private citizen who purchased the ad.

Fresquez was off when Flores called, and Medina was filling in for her. Medina returned Flores’ call and later called police and reported what is referred to in the police report as a “disturbing telephone conversation.”

According to notes taken by Medina and included in the police report, Flores said, “look at Mondays paper for Casandra (Fresquez) to clear it up because her name is on the paper they are going to go after her and they are going on the radio if she don’t clear it up.”

The police report states that Fresquez was contacted “and does feel threatened by the statements made by Mr. Flores” and that they are a form of harassment. The report also states that, “Due to these comments, the Recall Committee who Mr. Flores represents is not wanted at 1700 N. Grand.” That address is where City Hall is located.

Flores acknowledges making the call but denies threatening to harm Fresquez.

“All I called was to let them know that the city clerk needs to stay neutral on this and she needs to make sure just to follow the process,” Flores said. “That was basically the gist of my conversation.”

Flores acknowledged that he did say recall organizers would go on the radio and put ads in the paper because they are concerned that “the clerk might be tainted.”

“If they think that’s a threat, then I’ll stop calling over there,” Flores said. “This recall is bigger than what I am... I’m an old sick man already. What can I do?”

Lee Einer, another organizer of the recall effort, called the city’s decision to call police a misuse of police or an attempt to misuse police.

“I haven’t seen these types of dirty tricks used before,” he said.

Einer accused the city of engaging in a pattern of voter suppression. He said he has spoken to city employees, and several have told him that they want to sign the recall petition but don’t because they will be retaliated against.

City Attorney Dave Romero declined to discuss the police report, saying he didn’t want to influence the investigation that is under way. Fresquez was out of the office on Friday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

Signers’ names can be removed
The ad that led to Flores’ telephone call was purchased by Las Vegas resident Loretta Lopez. Lopez has also previously been listed as co-treasurer of “Reasonable Folks Against the Recall,” a group that purchased an ad in the Optic in late May giving support for Mayor Ortiz.

Lopez said many people approached her and asked her if she had signed the recall petition. She said she told them she hadn’t, and several of them told her they hadn’t realized what they were signing until after the fact.

Lopez said she decided to purchase the ads to let people know that they can remove their names from it if they feel that they were misled.

“Nobody’s perfect,” Lopez said. “Our mayor, they just say the bad things. They don’t say all the good that he’s done. I have a lot of respect for our mayor, and I think it’s a shame to our community the ugly signs that they are putting... He won fair and square.”

Fresquez told the Optic last Monday that the city had outside counsel research whether people could remove their names from a petition. She said the attorney looking into it found case law supporting a voter’s right to remove her name from a petition, so long as the request is made prior to the petition and signatures being certified.

Flores told the Optic that his group has until Friday to turn in the petition requesting the recall.

Under the recall rules established by the city charter, 937 signatures from registered city voters would be required to force a special recall election.

In order to remove Ortiz from office, the city charter mandates that more people vote to remove him than those voting to retain him. But it also mandates that the number of votes to recall Ortiz be equal to or exceed the number of votes Ortiz received when elected. Ortiz was elected during the April 17, 2012, runoff election with 1,413 votes.

Door locks discourage access
Flores said the decision to file a police report on him because of the call he made is similar to the city administration’s decision several months ago to have a large police presence at a Council meeting and to its decision to install a lock that prohibits the public from being able to directly access most offices at City Hall.

“Basically what they’re saying is that anybody that’s trying to address issues at the city, all of a sudden everybody’s threatened, that’s what they’re doing,” he said.