The former president of the Hispanic Festival called yesterday for a new election to determine who will head the popular summer event, saying an investigation had revealed that the winner of the festival's December election had violated a rule against busing in voters.
At an afternoon news conference in Adams-Morgan, building contractor Eduardo Perdomo, who presided over the event for the last two years, said the new election will be held Feb. 26.
He added, however, that another election would not be necessary if Jose Sueiro, the publisher of El Latino newspaper who won the December contest, and the two losers, Laurel radio station owner Israel Lopez and building contractor Arturo Griffits, agree to run the festival as a "triumvirate."
Sueiro, who did not attend the news conference, said later he would not accept Perdomo's plan to have all three candidates run the festival.
"If they work with me and recognize me as president I'll be glad to work with them," he said.
The annual event, which in the past has drawn as many as 150,000 people, is the focal point for the area's diverse Hispanic community, and its president is seen by many as that community's symbolic leader.
In the Dec. 17 election, Sueiro won by 34 votes over Griffits, who came in second with 168 votes. Lopez came in third with 76 votes.
Sueiro said yesterday that he already had begun planning for the July event with the help of a committee of former founders and presidents of the festival.
He said he did not intend to participate in a new election. "I won fair and square . . . and I did nothing wrong," he said.
Sonia Gutierrez, a former festival president, community leader and supporter of Sueiro, said of the call for a new election, "We're just ignoring the whole thing. There was an election and Jose is the winner."
Griffits and Lopez, who attended the news conference, indicated they are willing to share the presidency with Sueiro.
In the election, Sueiro and his supporters used buses to bring 34 students from the Gordon Adult Center, a vocational center at 35th and T streets NW that caters mainly to Hispanics, to the Marie Reed Learning Center in Adams-Morgan where the election was held.
Perdomo claims that there was a preelection agreement among the candidates against busing in voters. Sueiro maintains there was no such agreement.
In the 1985 election, Perdomo bused in about 100 students from the Gordon Center. Perdomo's opponent also brought in several busloads of Chinese voters from nearby suburbs, according to Perdomo.
At the time, there was no election rule against the practice, Perdomo said.
After the latest election, Griffits and Lopez filed a formal complaint with Perdomo, alleging that Sueiro had broken the agreement on busing.
Perdomo and the other members of the committee who had helped him organize the festival for the last two years then conducted an investigation that resulted in the finding that Sueiro had broken the ban on the busing.
Some community leaders fear that if the feud is not resolved the result may be two Hispanic festivals, the one organized by Sueiro and another organized by Lopez and Griffits.
For his part, Perdomo said if Sueiro continues with his plans to organize the festival on his own, "then I wish him good luck, but we will continue with our plans for holding a new election."