INGLEWOOD — You’ve heard the phrase, “a day late and a dollar short.”
Well it seems that former Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts was four days late in filing a change of address and voter registration form, forcing the Inglewood City Council this week to declare him ineligible to run for mayor of “the City of Champions.”
In Inglewood, a candidate for office must be a resident and registered voter in the city for at least 30 days before filing nomination papers for public office. Butts filed his nomination papers on March 10, meaning that he would have had to been a registered voter and resident of Inglewood since at least Feb. 8, 2010, Inglewood city officials said. The County Registrar/Recorder claims Butts did not file his change of address and voter registration form until Feb. 12, 2010, making him ineligible.
Butts, who served as Santa Monica’s chief of police for 16 years before leaving to become deputy director of public safety at Los Angeles World Airports, was in the middle of a competitive run-off election with Inglewood City Councilman Danny Tabor to succeed former Mayor Roosevelt Dorn. Dorn resigned in January just hours before pleading guilty to a misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charge for a low-interest loan he received from the city.
Butts received 23.63 percent of the vote in the June 8, 2010 general election, coming in just behind Tabor, who secured 26.24 percent. Since no candidate secured a majority, a run-off election was scheduled.
The Inglewood council on Tuesday voted to disqualify Butts and placed Councilwoman Judy Dunlap in the run-off, which will be held on Aug. 31 instead of Aug. 17 to give the clerk more time to prepare and mail sample ballots reflecting the change in candidates. Dunlap came in third in the June 8 election with 17.63 percent of votes cast.
The winner of the run-off will serve until November, at which time they will have to run again if they wish to secure a four-year term.
Butts’ residency came into question during the campaign, when he was accused by one of his rivals of still living at his home in Ladera Heights and using his father-in-law’s Inglewood address to establish a residency in Inglewood. Before serving in Santa Monica, Butts was the deputy chief of police Inglewood, the city where he began his law enforcement career.
In certifying the June 8 election results, Inglewood City Clerk Yvonne Horton asked the county clerk to clarify the dispute over Butt’s residency. She believed, based on information she received from county staff, that Butts was registered to vote in Inglewood since December 2006, but in fact that was incorrect. Butts was registered to vote in Los Angeles on that date, not Inglewood.
Butts said he filed his paperwork with the county clerk on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010, but that it wasn’t entered into the system until four days later, making him ineligible. The clerk’s office is not open on Saturdays.
Horton said she is bound by law to go with the date recorded by the clerk, however, she said she gave Butts four opportunities to sign a sworn affidavit detailing the manner in which he submitted the paperwork.
Butts refused, saying his attorney did not want him to sign anything in case a lawsuit was filed for denying him due process.
“He had the option to come to the table and be able to still run in the race, but he chose not to do it,” Horton told the Daily Press Friday. “I would have accepted that.”
Butts told the Daily Press that instead of spending over $20,000 to fight the disqualification and possibly only hold the mayoral seat for roughly two months, he is going to use his resources to run for the four-year term in November.
“The real prize is in November,” Butts said. “My whole intent was to run in November as an incumbent. So we don’t end up doing that, but I still feel that voters of Inglewood need and are ready for change and I intend to run vigorously.”
Butts said he is bolstered by his showing in the June 8 election, coming in second amongst a group of Inglewood elected officials with long ties to the community. That showed him the voters are looking for something new.
As for living at his father-in-law’s house, Butts said he and his wife of 11 years live in the guest room and are trying to sell their Los Angeles home and purchase another in Inglewood. He said his drivers’ license and car are registered at the Inglewood address.
“After being married to someone for 11 years, to be welcomed to live with your in-laws, I must be a pretty good guy,” Butts joked.
His main rival, Tabor, had little to say about the disqualification, however, he believes he will have an easier time winning votes now that Butts is out. He too is focused on the November election, calling the Aug. 31 run-off a “primary.”