City Loses Suit To Squelch Prop LL Rebuttal

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Santa Monica Mirror

Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Valerie Baker has ruled that The City of Santa Monica must print a rebuttal argument submitted by the backers of Proposition LL in the ballot pamphlet that all city voters will receive for the November election.

The City had refused to print the rebuttal submitted by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), saying that it had not been signed by the proper representatives, and thus did not meet election code guidelines.

In response, the FTCR filed suit against the City, Santa Monica City Clerk Maria Stewart, City Council members Pam O’Connor and Paul Rosenstein and Mayor Ken Genser.

Proposition LL, which has been supported primarily by an all-volunteer grass roots branch of the FTCR called “The Oaks Project,” would preclude City officials from accepting gifts, campaign contributions or employment from a company or individuals to which they award a City contract, tax break or zoning variance.

In a press release, Harvey Rosenfeld, President of the FTCR, had this to say about the City’s actions, “the arrogant effort by the City Council opponents to Proposition LL shows how necessary it is for voters that we prevent misconduct by public officials. They wasted voters’ time and money by forcing us to sue them.”

Deputy City Attorney Cara E. Silver sees it differently, “The City of Santa Monica follows the state election codes. The codes state that rebuttals may be submitted by the person filing the original argument. Santa Monica and other cities have interpreted the person signing the document to be the filer. We believe this is a fair and reasonable interpretation. The judge disagreed.”

Harvey Rosenfeld and Green party presidential candidate Ralph Nader had signed the original argument for Proposition LL. LL proponent and FTCR employee Douglas Heller signed the rebuttal.

According to Silver, the FTCR was informed that their rebuttal would not be printed unless it was signed by Nader and Rosenfeld. The FTCR complied, but, again according to Silver, the newly signed rebuttal was returned six days late, and with new text added. “Election codes deadlines are taken very seriously. Also, we felt there was a problem because Heller was not an officer of the Foundation (FTCR), and our interpretation of the codes says he must be.”

Accusations of misconduct are flying from both sides of this issue. The FTCR contends that the City is simply using whatever means it can to prevent the passage of Prop LL. Says Rosenfeld; “[City officials] have shown they will use their political power to protect their own interests at the expense of the public’s interest. This is why we need Prop LL.”

The City, on the other hand, accuses the FTCR of having Heller sign the rebuttal in response to the City’s argument that “outsiders” were sponsoring the proposition. (Heller is a Santa Monica resident). “We saw in their court papers that it was their strategy to have Heller sign,” says Silver.

Reached Tuesday morning, Council member O’Connor was surprised to hear the judge’s ruling, and to hear that she had been named in the suit. “I’ve been working, I haven’t had time to follow this,” she said.

In response to Monday’s decision, O’Connor stated that she had never tried to prevent the FTCR’s rebuttal from appearing on the ballot, she had simply questioned whether rules had been followed. “I guess I’m named in the suit because I asked questions. According to what I had been told, the rules stated that rebuttal must be signed by the same people that signed the argument. If that was the case, then they hadn’t followed the rules.” O’Connor, who wrote the City’s argument against Proposition LL, added, “unfortunately, it puts me at a disadvantage because I didn’t have the opportunity to put other community leaders’ signatures on my argument. But I’m not going to put any resources into this. The good news is, the codes have now been clarified, and we will all know what the rules are.”

O’Connor did take a swipe at the FTCR and “The Oaks Project,” stating, “I’ve been told by people I trust that there was lying going on [during the signature drive]. They (the volunteers) said Council members were on the take…they were lying in order to get signatures. I wonder if that’s considered campaign reform.” She added, “Ralph Nader and Harvey Rosenfeld use the term ‘politician’ as a pejorative. It’s funny that I’m being labeled as a hard core politician by a candidate for national office, when I’m just a part-time politician, with nothing to gain or lose from this.” (This is O’Connor’s last term in office.)

Rosenfeld could not be reached for comment.

Judge Baker did not give an explanation for her ruling. The City will comply. “We’re going to print [the rebuttal] as the judge ordered,” stated Santa Monica City Clerk Maria Stewart.

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