Politics, government and public life for Southern California

San Gabriel City Council decides to seat councilman-elect

Chin-Ho Liao and legal team

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Attorneys Deanna Kitamura, center, and Nilay Vora, left, celebrate on hearing that Councilman-elect Chin-Ho Liao, right, will be permitted to take his seat on the San Gabriel City Council.

The San Gabriel City Council voted 3-1 Monday to set aside a challenge to the residency of councilman-elect Chin-Ho Liao and let him take the oath of office.

When Liao takes his council seat Tuesday evening, it will be two months after the election. Soon after the votes were counted, a resident of the city filed a complaint alleging that Liao did not live in San Gabriel as required by law. The City Council chose to hold off installing him in office and held hearings that included testimony from his Liao's neighbors, wife and acquaintances.

At Monday's meeting, the council focused on two issues: whether Liao had a physical presence in the city and whether he intended to remain in San Gabriel.

A majority of the council agreed that Liao resided in the city for the March election. He had rented an apartment in San Gabriel last November, changed his drivers license and voter registration address, and neighbors said he appeared to be living within the city. But other key indicators of his domicile did not follow — tax records, health insurance and other records kept his out-of-city address.

On the question of his intent, Liao had said he was looking for a house to buy in San Gabriel.

A factor working against him was that when Liao ran for the council two years ago, he moved briefly into San Gabriel, but promptly returned to his longtime home outside the borders of the city.

Despite that earlier move, three of the four council members decided they did not have enough evidence to conclude Liao did not intend to stay in the city. Councilman John Harrington cast the lone vote to sustain the residency challenge and deny Liao a seat.

In comments before the vote to more than 100 people crowded into the council chamber, Harrington said, "I don't think he would have stayed here, regardless of the outcome of this election."

With Liao and Jason Pu, who also was elected in March, San Gabriel will have two Asian-American voices on the council for the first time in several years. Only two other Asian-Americans have won elective office in the city's 100-year existence.

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