Los Alamitos City Councilman Troy Edgar filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley improperly rejected his nomination papers to run for county clerk-recorder earlier this month.
Behind the scenes, argued those close to Edgar, is a battle by county supervisors to protect their appointed candidate, Hugh Nguyen, who is now running to fill the vacancy created in 2012 when Tom Daly was elected to the 69th Assembly District.
The idea is to keep the candidate pool narrow so Nguyen can avoid a runoff in June by obtaining a clear majority.
Supervisors’ supporters, in turn, have already quietly labeled Edgar’s run as largely payback by political consultant Brett Barbre, alleging he is seeking revenge on behalf of Daly because supervisors rejected his nominee to replace him, Rene Ramirez, and have openly criticized Daly’s management of the office.
They argued that Barbre is seeking to push Nguyen into a runoff in order to spike his campaign costs and trigger a potential upset.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer publicly argued that Barbre just wasn’t ready earlier this month with nomination papers and got caught. Spitzer denied that a staffer of his who was at the Registrar’s office, Chris Nguyen, had anything to do with Kelley’s decision.
Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson also has said that his chief of staff, Denis Bilodeau, had nothing to do with Kelley’s decision.
Yet in his lawsuit, Edgar alleges that nearly a dozen candidates did not complete the process of submitting their nomination documents before the 5 p.m. deadline on March 7 at the registrar’s office.
In his lawsuit, Edgar also points to public records requests showing time stamps of other nomination paperwork being filed after 5 p.m.
While the California secretary of state has already certified those candidates, Edgar is asking a local court to invalidate the nomination papers for Assessor Webster Guillory and Al Mijares, who is also running for assessor, because their paperwork has time stamps after 5 p.m. and has yet to be submitted for state certification.
“The code said you have to have to have your signatures by 5 p.m. and take the oath of office before 5 p.m.,” said Edgar’s consultant, Barbre. “There were several that took the oath after 5 p.m. and yet they qualified. We’re just asking for it to be fair.”
“They have to apply the law equally,” Barbre said.
A central piece of evidence in the case is expected to feature the lobby camera footage from the registrar’s office, showing Edgar’s effort to get nomination papers signed.
Kelly told Voice of OC that watching the video, along with consulting county attorneys after a complaint was registered, clinched his decision to invalidate Edgar’s nomination papers.
“I rejected the filing because more than one signature was gathered after 5 p.m.,” Kelley said earlier this month.
Voice of OC obtained a copy of the video, of which the portion from 5 p.m. onward can be seen here:
At 1:32 on the video, a sheriff’s deputy can be seen locking the doors.
Then at 4:25 on the video, Barbre lays out a marked sheet of paper in front of Bilodeau and Brian Probolsky, a senior county agency executive and member of the Moulton Niguel Water District.
Barbre, who initially alleged a plot among supervisors to keep Edgar off the ballot, appears to ask for a signature from Bilodeau, who holds his arms up and shrugs his shoulders. Barbre then turns to Probolsky, who also shrugs his shoulders.
He then packs up his documents and ultimately takes them elsewhere.
At 5:41 on the video, Barbre approaches a man in a white shirt, who apparently proceeds to sign the paper.
By 7:07 on the video, political consultant Mike Johnson appears to sign the paperwork.
Then at 11:21 on the video, Barbre walks across the room to submit the document.
In his lawsuit, Edgar said he arrived at the registrar’s office just after 4 p.m. and said the registrar’s workers just took too long to process his papers.
Barbre argued the same approach should apply that does in elections: While doors close at 8 p.m., anybody in line has a chance to vote.
“It’s the same thing,” Barbre said. “It’s not like we trying to get inside the door.”