Foes Go to Extremes in This Year’s City Council Elections with Mailers and Mysterious Website
By Lillian Boyd
Dana Point’s District 3 race for a seat on city council is seeing an increasing amount of contention, as Election Day comes closer. This is the city’s first race implementing the newly drawn district lines, and District 3 is the only portion in the city election that is guaranteed to produce a political newcomer as a winner.
District 3 candidate Jamey Federico, a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and business owner, has run a campaign that has often been associated with the campaigns of fellow candidates and incumbent councilmembers Richard Viczorek and Joseph Muller, running in Districts 1 and 2 respectively, based off campaign signage and support from common political action committees (PACs). Federico faces Charles Payne, a police lieutenant for the Riverside Police Department and a business owner. His campaign has been associated with fellow candidates Joe Jaeger and Mark McGinn, running in Districts 1 and 2 respectively, due to similar platforms, common donors and reports of joint fundraising.
A website with the URL www.StopSlickSanford.com has circulated around social media’s political dialogue. The webpage includes a photo of Sanford Edward, the developer for the Strand at Headlands community, meeting with city council candidate Payne and Dana Point resident Buck Hill at a restaurant table overlooking the beach. If you scroll down, you see the following text:
“Why is Slick Sanford funding liberal activist Buck Hill and Councilwoman Debra Lewis’ slate of candidates that represent developers—not residents? Two years ago the city sued Edward for fraud, breach of contract, and not paying $553,000 in legal fees to the city. Three months later—after the 2016 elections—Edward donated nearly $20,000 to a PAC controlled by Buck Hill. One-third of Buck Hill’s donations came from Sanford Edward. Now they’re at it again.”
At the bottom of the web page, it states the domain is paid for by the Taxpayers Protection PAC (FPPC# 1407419) and that the page was not authorized by a candidate or committee controlled by a candidate. According to WhoIs, a web program that generates registry information for a given URL, StopSlickSanford was created on Oct. 5, 2018. The only contact information listed is associated with GoDaddy, Inc., a web-hosting company. The listed treasurer for the Taxpayers Protection PAC is Lysa Ray, also the listed treasurer for Jamey Federico, Joe Muller and Richard Viczorek, according to 496 Independent Expenditure Reports available on www.DanaPoint.org and registered information on www.sos.ca.gov.
“I’m handling finances for more than 100 candidates set to appear on this year’s ballots. I’m not involved in campaign strategies; I just handle the receipts,” Ray said. “I’m not aware of any website (associated with Taxpayers Protection PAC).”
Federico said he had no knowledge of the website prior to its creation.
“I found out about the site the same way everyone else did, when it was up,” he said. “I wish for any group that supports me to highlight my qualifications and put energy into something positive.”
He also said Ray’s role in his campaign is to account for expenditures and that he has no contact with her other than to send receipts. According to a notice from the Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC), the commission will investigate a complaint against Federico’s campaign, which alleges prohibited coordination between campaign staff and the Taxpayers Protection PAC regarding the website and mailers sent out to oppose Payne.
As far as what the web page might insinuate, Payne acknowledges he met with Edward, admitting he ate a sandwich in Edward’s presence.
“Yes, I met (Edward) on July 27 for lunch. I hadn’t even submitted all my paperwork for my candidacy at the time,” Payne said. “I was meeting with members of the community to network.”
Payne denies he asked Edward for anything or was promised anything, and he says the meeting took less than an hour.
At press time, it was unclear who specifically created the website, other than that it was paid for by the Taxpayers Protection PAC. In the Oct. 26-Nov. 1 issue of the Dana Point Times, Rick Erkeneff submitted a Letter to the Editor stating he had nothing to do with the website. Erkeneff and his wife, Denise Erkeneff, are employed by Federico’s campaign.
According to expenditure reports, the Taxpayers Association PAC received a $5,000 contribution from the Dana Point Taxpayers Association, the organization that sent out mailers using the same image of Payne meeting with Edward and Hill. Now, the Dana Point Taxpayers Association faces legal opposition from an attorney representing Edward.
In a cease-and-desist letter dated Oct. 26 sent to the Dana Point Taxpayers Association from Peter Bagatelos, the attorney representing Edward, Bagatelos contends that the campaign fliers containing the same image featured on the website to be defamatory. The letter further states that Edward did not throw a private fundraiser for a slate of candidates and that he has not publicly or financially supported any of the eight candidates running for city council.
Both the website and mailers sent out to oppose Payne allege that Dana Point sued Edward for not paying $553,000 in legal fees to the city. One mailer reads: “Edward wants his money back” and “Electing city council candidate Charles Payne is his payday.” Bagatelos argues these statements are false and taken out of context.
In a responding letter to Bagatelos dated Oct. 29, James Lacy, an attorney representing the Dana Point Taxpayers Association, describes Bagatelos’ letter as an attempt to suppress the association’s right to freedom of expression. The letter also alleges Edward attended an event on Oct. 3 at the Headlands Club, a location managed and controlled by Edward. City Councilmember Lewis and candidates Payne, Joe Jaeger and Mark McGinn reportedly attended the event as well. The letter lists various attendees and witnesses at the event that day, connecting their names to a list of contributors to campaigns for Payne, Jaeger and McGinn.
According to documents obtained by the Dana Point Times, a complaint was filed with the FPPC and the City of Dana Point against the committees for candidates Payne, McGinn and Jaeger, calling for an investigation to be opened. The complaint alleges the three candidates failed to disclose financial support from “Sanford Edward, of Headlands Reserve LLC or a related entity,” specifically from a “meet-and-greet” event held on Oct. 3 at the Headlands Clubhouse. It also alleges Edward did attend the event. The financial support in question refers to the catered food provided at the clubhouse.
McGinn confirmed he was in attendance, saying he was invited by Eric Perkowski, a future resident of the Strands, but said Edward was not at the event. McGinn said he needed to look into the matter, that he was unsure of who provided catering and if the catering did exceed $500, he would submit an addendum to his 460 to report the costs.
In a phone interview, Edward denied sponsoring or attending the event. He alluded to bad blood with Dana Point Taxpayers Association attorney James Lacy stemming from a decade ago.
“James Lacy is a big, fat liar,” Edward said. “I’m not running for city council. This election should be focused on the actual candidates running for city council and their issues.”
Shortly after the phone interview with Edward, the Dana Point Times obtained an amended version of the complaint against Jaeger, Payne and McGinn, which included a photocopied receipt for Pacific Thyme Catering & Events. The tab for services totaled $1,069.27, and the customer contact is listed as “Edith Estay The Strand Realty x Sanford E.” In following up with Edward, he said there had been a clerical error that would be cleared up, and it was a non-issue.
While the complaint calls for the City of Dana Point to open an investigation, the matter is not in its jurisdiction, instead falling under the FPPC’s authority.
The Dana Point City Council 2018 Election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Go to www.danapointtimes.com to read our 2018 Election Guide for more information on the candidates.