A local law office is calling for the Kern County District Attorney’s office to investigate a Kern County supervisor in an alleged attempt to remove a candidate’s name from the ballot.
Rodriguez and Associates, the law firm representing District Four Supervisor Candidate Emilio Huerta, is requesting a criminal investigation of Kern County District Four Supervisor David Couch by the district attorney’s office. The firm is alleging Couch partook in fraudulent behavior.
“The reason we are here is not just a case of dirty politics. It’s a case of laws being broken,” said Joel Andreesen, senior partner at Rodriguez and Associates, at a press conference Wednesday. “It is our belief that Supervisor David Couch directly or indirectly…was involved with three other people to remove Emilio Huerta’s name from the March 3 election ballot.”
Kern Sol News reached out to Couch’s office for comment. His office declined to comment. Andreesen said he has yet to find any direct evidence of Couch’s involvement.
The law firm began investigating the incident nearly a month ago, after individuals questioned Huerta’s residence in Delano, which Huerta moved into in August 2019 to run for the district seat, according to Andreesen.
The firm is alleging Couch, local attorney Brandon Martin, Delano city council member Joe Aguirre, and Fernando Flores participated in a “coordinated scheme to use deceitful methods to gather false information and present false declarations to a Kern County Superior Court judge,” a letter to District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer says.
In the letter, Andreesen writes the fraudulent charges include: Flores misrepresenting to individuals he was an employee of the city; Flores misrepresenting why he needed to speak with neighbors of Huerta; an attorney and Flores presenting “blank” declarations to individuals to sign; Martin submitting a declaration with false signatures; and Martin and Flores preparing declarations that are not the declarations’ true statement and filing them with the superior court.
In January, Martin, Couch’s former chief of staff, challenged Huerta’s residency in Delano by filing a writ of mandate on behalf of Aguirre with the Kern County Superior Court. In the documents submitted were six declarations signed by Kern County residents, one of which is Huerta’s roommate in Delano.
These declarations indicated Huerta did not live at the residence in Delano; however, Andreesen said the declarations were obtained through false and misleading representation by Martin and Flores, who posed as a City of Delano employee when he was not.
“Our investigation clearly established fraud and deceit in obtaining the declarations and fraud and deceit in the declarations presented to the Kern County Superior Court,” the letter says.
Andreesen said his team spoke with those whose names appeared on the declarations. Five out of the six people said they either did not sign the declaration, were told the declaration was for other purposes other than the election, or signed a blank document. The law firm received new declarations from these individuals refuting the former declarations.
“What was represented and how the signatures were attained were fraudulent, in our opinion,” Andreesen said.
In 2018, district lines were redrawn after Kern County lost a lawsuit against the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. A judge found supervisorial district boundaries drawn by the Kern County Board of Supervisors in 2011 were drawn illegally and violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act, The Bakersfield Californian reported. As a result, the district lines were redrawn, creating latino-majority districts.
“The court specifically redrew district lines to let voters have a Latino represent them,” Huerta told Kern Sol News. “Is this an attempt to undermine the courts intent and voters’ right to elect a representative of their choosing?”
Andreesen said at the press conference the Republican party is fighting hard to keep the District four seat.
“In my opinion, I believe that the Republicans are trying their darndest to hold onto that district and that is a heavily democratic district,” Andreesen said. ‘That’s a concern I had when I first started looking at it.”
To address this concern, Andreesen forwarded the case information to the California Secretary of State and the California Attorney General’s offices.
Andreesen said the DA’s office has not responded to the request for an investigation.
“It’s pretty clear to us the Kern County District Attorney’s office should investigate this because the allegations we have presented them are very serious,” he said. “The information we have passed on to them is rock solid.”