Politics, government and public life for Southern California

San Gabriel council refuses to swear in councilman-elect amid residency challenge

Chin-Ho Liao

Courtesy Chin Ho Liao campaign

Councilman-elect Chin Ho Liao placed second in the unofficial vote totals from San Gabriel's March 5 election to fill three council seats.


Before a standing-room-only audience at San Gabriel City Hall, two winning City Council candidates were sworn into office, but a third was not permitted to take the oath amid questions about where he lives. One council seat remains vacant.

The City Council decided to investigate whether candidate Chin Ho Liao actually lived in an apartment he rented within city limits during his run for office, said city spokeswoman Jessica Hsu.

The council acted in response to a San Gabriel resident who filed a complaint alleging that Liao never moved out of his home in an unincorporated area just outside the city.

Hsu said that while Liao had legal standing to run for the San Gabriel City Council based on his identification documents, the law also requires that he live in that place. She said the city had not determined who would conduct the investigation.

Liao said Tuesday before he was denied his oath-taking that he rented the apartment in October and changed his voter registration and drivers license addresses to show he lived in San Gabriel. He said he visited the house outside the city where his wife and daughter live only a few times to check his mail, but otherwise lived in the San Gabriel apartment. He said he was selling a house in San Francisco and planning to use the proceeds to buy a house within San Gabriel.

After Tuesday night's crowded council meeting—which was translated for speakers of Mandarin and Cantonese in another City Hall room—challenger Jason Pu and incumbent Mayor Kevin Sawkins were sworn into office. Outgoing council members David Gutierrez and Mario De La Torre, who lost reelection bids, left the council.

Sawkins will continue to serve as mayor for 30 days, Hsu said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the languages into which the San Gabriel City Council meeting were translated. Cantonese and Mandarin translations were provided.  Also, Hsu clarified the term that Hawkins will continue as mayor -- He'll serve for 30 more days, then the council will vote its choice for the next term.

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