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Former Bell police officer alleges serious voting irregularities in 2009 election

July 27, 2010 |  7:29 am

A retired Bell police sergeant claimed in a lawsuit filed this week that off-duty Bell police officers in the 2009 election distributed absentee ballots to voters and told them which candidates to select.

The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed by James Corcoran, who says he was forced out of his job for  informing authorities about the officers' actions as well as for a variety of other actions that he says top city leaders did not like.

According to the lawsuit, Corcoran in 2009 reported to the California secretary of state’s chief investigator and the FBI “that off-duty police officers were taking absentee ballots and providing them to voters to fill out.”

Corcoran claimed that officers instructed individuals how to vote and that some ballots were filled out for deceased people.

The secretary of state's office declined to discuss the case -- or to say whether the allegations were still being actively investigated. It's unclear whether the FBI pursued the case.

The Times revealed last week that only about 400 people voted in a 2005 special election that made Bell a charter city and allowed council members to increase their pay.

Corcoran claimed in his suit that he was demoted and eventually fired for taking on top city officials, including investigating what he said was an allegation that outgoing City Manager Robert Rizzo touched a female secretary in the police department. (Rizzo could not be reached for comment.)

Corcoran said he was demoted from detective sergeant to patrol sergeant in 2009, losing his right to a take-home car and flexible hours. This year, Corcoran filed a claim for damages against the city and with the state Department of Fair Employment. He says he retired to avoid being fired.

-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

Photo: The crowd erupts at Monday night's City Council meeting in Bell, where council members said they would take a 90% pay cut after outcry. Credit: Don Bartletti / L.A. Times

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