When candidates list occupation, there is room for interpretation

When candidates list occupation, there is room for interpretationBody: DOWNEY - Inside each voter's ballot, under every name, is a job description. Hoping to enlighten voters as to each candidate's line of work, the listing according to County elections code must not deceive or "mislead the voter," but rather provide "the current principal professions, vocations or occupations of the candidate." But for many running for elected office, including District 4 contenders Lee Ann Sears and Fernando Vasquez, listing their service on a city board or commission, though not their primary occupation, is allowable under current local election rules. "It is a long-standing policy that appointed board or commission positions can be listed," said Downey City Clerk Kathleen Midstokke. "Once they've turned in their campaign statements, there is a 10-day public inspection period. Other candidates or the public can protest it, but it must be clear and convincing." Sears and Vasquez, who are vying for Mayor Anne Bayer's District 4 (northeast) seat, have listed their commission titles on the ballot, although both earn a living working other jobs. Appointed by Bayer, Sears serves on the Recreation and Community Services Commission and earns $18 per meeting, however, Sears' primary profession is at Curves, a women's gym, where she is a fitness trainer. Nevertheless, on November's ballot, Sears' profession will be listed as "community services commissioner." "There are no rules against it - that's what a lot of people do when they put down their occupation," said Sears in response. "It shows that I am involved in the community. I worked in the medical field for 20 years and now I'm a Curves instructor. It's all on the ballot." Sears does list her primary job along with her community service experience inside her campaign statement. Vasquez, who could not be reached for comment, also listed his commission duties as his occupation, designating himself a "Downey planning commissioner" on the ballot. In 2008, Vasquez was appointed by Councilman Luis Marquez to serve on the Planning Commission where he currently earns $36 per meeting, however, Vasquez's primary job is at National Core where he is a project development manager. Candidate Alex Saab is listed on the ballot as an "attorney, business owner." Nonetheless, Sears and Vasquez's ballot descriptions are permissible as County elections code only denies designations that suggest a positive evaluation of a candidate, name a particular political party, use words referring to any racial, religious or ethnic group, or endorse an illegal activity. In March, democratic legislative aide Ricardo Lara, before winning his primary election in the 50th Assembly District, was sued over his ballot designation, which described him as a "consumer affairs commissioner." Lara, who had not attended a commission meeting in over a year, later changed the designation to read "communications director."

********** Published: October 14, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 26