Orange Cove Mayor Under State Investigation

November 5, 2008 7:55:50 PM PST
Volunteer poll watcher Charlie Waters says he got called to the Orange Cove poll location Tuesday because other poll watchers and voters were being intimidated. Waters told Action News, "Going into the poll and either voting for them or telling them what to do."Waters went on to say two of the men involved were the sons of Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez. Other poll watchers told Waters that Mayor Lopez had also been guiding voters, so Waters confronted the men. He said, "A fellow comes up on my right and says, 'Do you know who I am?' I said I don't give a rat's blank who you are. He said, 'I'm the mayor.' I said so, these people are interfering with this election."

Mayor Lopez denied doing anything inappropriate. "You couldn't tell the voter vote this way. Absolutely not." The confrontation in the polls got so heated that Fresno County Sheriff Deputies were called. Waters said, "When the sheriff came in they challenged him. Why are you here? You're intimidating my people."

Everyone was told to leave and a fraud investigator with the Secretary of State's office came in. But Mayor Lopez denied he and his sons are under state investigation. "I am not aware of any investigation. I am not concerned about any investigation, ok? Period. Underline that. Take that to the bank."

Fresno County Clerk, Victor Salazar said, "The rule is voters do have a right to have assistance but some people felt they were going too far."

The Fresno County Sheriff's Department says it will turn over its initial report to the Secretary of State's fraud investigator who will take over the investigation. Deputy Chris Curtice said, "The mayor, like everybody else is a citizen and he's allowed to be in specific places even during the election but he also has to abide by the same laws that everyone else does."

Action News called the State's fraud investigator but he did return our call. The Sheriff's Department said disrupting an election and interfering with voters is a penal code violation.

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