Fourth District candidate Emilio Huerta is fighting back against allegations he does not live at the Delano residence he claims to rent.
After Delano Mayor Joe Aguirre asked a Kern County judge to remove Huerta from the ballot in January — claiming the candidate does not really live in the district he seeks to represent — Huerta has been forced to field questions about his residence.
Now, it appears he wants his opposition to answer a few questions of their own.
At a press conference Friday, a law firm representing Huerta requested the Kern County District Attorney’s Office initiate a criminal investigation into those responsible for January’s court filings. The law firm claims those involved include attorney Brandon Martin, who represented Aguirre in court, and even Supervisor David Couch, who is running for reelection against Huerta.
“What we’re going to talk about here today is not just a case of dirty politics, but instead a case of laws being broken to try to influence the Fourth District Kern County Board of Supervisor election,” Attorney Joel Andreesen said at the start of the press conference, held at the law offices of Rodriguez and Associates.
Throughout the press conference, Andreesen detailed an alleged scheme in which a man posed as a city of Delano employee in order to obtain sworn statements from six residents of Belmont Street in Delano, where Huerta purportedly lives. The statements claim the neighbors have not seen Huerta and do not think he lives at his alleged residence. Even Huerta’s supposed roommate in Delano says in his statement no one has lived with him since he moved to his home a year and a half prior.
However, Andreesen claims the neighbors did not realize what they were signing when approached by the man posing as a city employee, and in one case a woman told him she never signed the sworn statement. Andreesen said he had obtained sworn statements from five of the six signees discounting their original statements, and turned those statements over to the DA's Office.
"Their plan did not go as planned,” Andreesen said of Huerta’s opponents. “The documents they submitted were fraudulent so they should not be treated any different from any other person who engages in criminal conduct like this.”
The lawyer claimed Couch, either directly or indirectly, was involved in the supposed scheme.
A supervisor candidate must live within the district in which he or she is running in order to qualify. In January, a judge dismissed Aguirre’s lawsuit, saying the challenge came too close to the date of the election. The judge said the issue could be taken up after the election should Huerta triumph.
Couch pushed back against the claims brought up in the press conference, calling it a hallmark of a desperate campaign.
“My opponent is trying to distort my record in lieu of offering his own vision for voters,” Couch wrote in an email. “The simple fact is I’m proud of my record of service for all of my constituents and I hope the voters will see this what it is — a cheap, last minute trick with no substance.”
Aguirre’s attorney, Martin, said he filed the lawsuit in good faith after reviewing considerable evidence. He called on Huerta to show proof he really does live in Delano, and not a residence in Oleander Street in Bakersfield, as claimed in the court filings. Utility bills, DMV registration or mailing address information from the post office should show Huerta’s actual residence, Martin said.
“It's proof of domicile from Huerta and not accusations (from) attorneys pointing fingers that is needed to resolve this matter,” he wrote in an email. “I have not seen any of that proof of domicile from Huerta.”
The DA’s Office did not respond to requests for comment. Aguirre could not be reached for comment.
The election will be held March 3, when Huerta and Couch will face off against each other to represent the Fourth District.