From an unbelievable, or maybe all too believable, article in the new york times.
Oh, America.To Outsiders, a Town Seems a Cartel by Any Other Name - New York Times
: "VERNON, Calif. — With 44,000 workers by day and 91 residents at night, Vernon is no ordinary small town. Its motto, “Exclusively Industrial,” says it all. This 5.2-square-mile city a few miles south of downtown Los Angeles is strictly for business, with a few homes dotted amid warehouses, factories and meatpacking plants.
Donald Huff, left, with his lawyer, moved to Vernon in January and ran for office in April. City officials have put the ballots under lock and key.
Vernon has no movie theaters, parks or high schools. But despite its tiny population — or maybe because of it — it has not escaped accusations of small-town corruption. In April, Vernon held its first contested election in 26 years, and local leaders, would-be City Council members and state officials have been battling ever since.
Vernon officials have refused to count the ballots, saying they will await the outcome of litigation filed by City Clerk Bruce Malkenhorst Jr. against three Council opposition candidates and their housemates over their right to run for office and to vote or even to live in Vernon.
The dispute has resulted in a number of lawsuits.
Judge David P. Yaffe of Los Angeles Superior Court has ruled against the town, saying it cannot invalidate the election. Another Superior Court judge, Aurelio Muñoz, said in court that Vernon was “run like a fiefdom,” and rejected its attempt to strip the opposition of their right to vote. But lawyers for Mr. Malkenhorst, whose father retired as city administrator in 2004 with salary and perks of nearly $600,000 that year, say they will appeal.
The impasse has fueled debate over the ability of small towns to run their own elections. The California secretary of state, Bruce McPherson, has called on Vernon officials to count the votes, and Mr. McPherson supports a bill to strip the city of its power to administer elections for two years.
“This is an egregious abuse of the process,” Mr. McPherson said in a letter endorsing the bill, which would give Los Angeles County power to run Vernon’s next election. “Although this bill would not settle this issue for this election, it would ensure that future elections are conducted according to law.”
Mr. Malburg, the grandson of John B. Leonis, Vernon’s founding father, warmly greets lunch patrons at La Villa Basque, which has had the same d�cor and some of the same employees since it opened in 1960. But with outsiders, city officials seem guarded. When asked for comment after a recent City Council meeting, the mayor just smiled and walked away.
Silence, in fact, appears to be policy in Vernon. Other city officials said nothing when asked their names or if they would comment on the lawsuit and Judge Mu�oz’s ruling. Phone calls requesting comment were not returned.
According to the Chamber of Commerce, 44,000 people commute to work in Vernon. The city owns nearly all the homes in Vernon, and most residents work for the city and pay cheap rent. Vernon has its own police, health, utilities and fire departments. Owners of many of the 1,200-plus businesses in town praise the city leaders for excellent services, low taxes and inexpensive utilities.
Although Judge Mu�oz ruled against Vernon, he agreed with city officials that the newcomers were trying to gain power. He cited the youth and the lack of education and employment of most of them, but rejected the city’s attempt to cancel their voter registrations, saying in court that “power grabs aren’t illegal.”
Prof. Richard L. Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said he had “never heard of a situation anywhere where votes had been cast and then a clerk makes a decision not to count the votes.”
“Vernon’s like the Wild West,” Professor Hasen said. “The idea that they can just lock up the ballots — not only does that violate election laws, but it’s outrageous.”
Several business leaders said those in control of Vernon did a good job. “What city doesn’t have some corruption?” said Todd Levin, president of Todd’s Incorporated, a packager of dried nuts and other snack food. “I’m not saying they’re corrupt. I just know I get a great deal here, and they’re great to work with.”"