Candidate's English fluency to be further tested
- San Luis candidate removed from ballot (with video from hearing) - Jan. 25, 2012
- Candidate confirms she will appeal decision removing her from ballot - Jan. 28, 2012
San Luis City Council candidate Alejandrina Cabrera's name will remain on the ballot, at least for now, following a hearing in Yuma Superior County Court on Friday.
However, she will have to demonstrate that she has the English fluency and literacy skills required under state law to serve on the council before she ever receives a vote.
Superior Court Judge John Nelson approved a special statutory action filed by the city of San Luis. It asked for permission to hire Dr. William Eggington, a nationally known sociolinguistics expert, to test Cabrera to determine how much English she understands and speaks.
“If she passes this test, I will dismiss this case,” said San Luis city attorney Glenn Gimbut.
Gimbut explained to the court that he has sent the audio recordings and written materials from six city council meetings to Eggington, who will use them to determine how much English someone must know to be able serve on the city council. He will then interview Cabrera, once by phone and once in person, to verify her English proficiency and use it as a basis to determine if she could perform the duties of the position she was seeking.
If Cabrera, who is a U.S. citizen and graduate of Kofa High School, does not pass the test, the court can instruct the clerk of the city of San Luis to remove her name from the ballot, which is scheduled to be printed on Feb. 2. The next court hearing in the case is scheduled for 8 a.m. Jan. 25 in Yuma County Superior Court.
Earlier in the hearing, and before the judge's decision, attorney John Minore, who represents Cabrera, told the court he would be willing to put his client on the stand to answer questions and read from some documents. But, he said, the matter was politically motivated, based on two unsuccessful campaigns to recall the San Luis mayor, and argued that while Eggington's test may be used to determine whether someone is proficient in English, there is no established standard of English proficiency.
However, when Cabrera was called to the stand, she was unable to answer a question from Minore asking her which high school she graduated from. Although she was able to give replies to questions asking her name and where she was born, she could not answer the graduation question despite it being asked three times.
After her third failed attempt to answer the question, Judge Nelson dismissed her from the stand and issued his ruling.
Cabrera was among 10 candidates to file nomination petitions in December to run for four council seats in the city's March primary election.
She is running with former Mayor Nieves Riedel, ex-councilman Archibaldo Gurrola and candidate Ricardo Salazar in a joint campaign coordinated by Jorge “Toto” Reyes, a former San Luis Parks and Recreation Department employee who organized the city's youth athletic programs. Riedel, a San Luis businesswoman, ran against Escamilla in 2010 when he won re-election.
In case Cabrera loses her bid to stay on the ballot, the campaign has taken out petitions from the clerk's office to nominate another candidate to run in her place as a write-in candidate.
Cabrera began circulating petitions to recall Escamilla in April after the council hiked utility rates and approved the layoffs of 12 city employees as part of spending cuts to balance the budget. Reyes was one of the laid-off employees.
The first recall attempt was annulled when the city clerk's office determined Escamilla's opponents had not complied with state law when collecting petition signatures. That prompted a second attempt that failed when a review of the petitions by the Yuma County Recorder's Office found that organizers had not collected enough signatures from qualified voters to force Escamilla into a recall election.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.