TERM-LIMIT ADS SPARK OUTRAGE CHICK DEMANDS BACKERS STOP USING NAME, OFFICE.
Backers of Proposition R -- the controversial L.A. ballot measure -- have sparked outrage by sending mailers that critics say mislead voters about giving City Council members a third term and ending ``pay-to-play'' corruption at City Hall.
A complaint was filed Monday with the city Ethics Commission, and Controller Laura Chick abandoned her neutrality on the measure, calling for its defeat and demanding that backers stop making misleading statements about her investigation of city contracting practices.
``In fact, I adamantly oppose Proposition R, (and) using my name in mailers to voters in support of this measure is duplicitous and intentionally deceiving,'' Chick wrote in a letter to John Shallman, whose Sherman Oaks firm, Shallman Communications, produced the mailers sent to more than 100,000 likely voters.
``Please cease and desist immediately from using my name, or the Office of the City Controller, in conjunction with the Proposition R campaign.''
Chick disputed that the proposition would have prevented Fleishman-Hillard executives' fraudulent overbilling of the Department of Water and Power -- a claim made in the mailers. The ballot measure imposes restrictions on lobbyists' political activities, but the DWP controversy involved a public-relations firm overcharging for its services and had nothing to do with lobbying activity or the City Hall pay-to-play scandal.
``Nothing could be further from the truth,'' Chick said. ``Proposition R would have had no preventive effect on that matter. I remind you that the City Council actually voted to turn down my request for them to stop the LADWP from paying millions of dollars more to outside public-relations firms.''
Shallman, the campaign's consultant, said Chick's request would be honored but denied that her name or office was used to make an ``express or implied endorsement'' of the measure, and were ``merely cited to reflect her own public statements'' regarding the fraudulent overbillings.
He called Chick ``plain wrong'' in her assessment that Proposition R wouldn't have prevented the public-relations firm scandal.
``Proposition R clearly could have helped prevent the Fleishman-Hillard and other recent City Hall scandals,'' he said. ``While no legislation can ever ensure completely honest behavior, had Proposition R been in effect, it would have made it much more difficult for companies like Fleishman-Hillard to be dishonest.''
The mailers in question say, in part: ``The recent conviction of top executives from PR giant, Fleishman-Hillard, for what City Controller Laura Chick described as 4 million dollars of questionable billing to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, demonstrates the need for serious L.A. city government reform.
``Prop R will help prevent firms with close ties to city officials from swindling city government and associated agencies out of millions of taxpayer dollars.''
Stephen J. Kaufman, counsel and treasurer for the campaign, which has been heavily bankrolled by special interests, defended the language on term limits. The connection to Fleishman-Hillard, he said, was used as an example of a company that likely would have been forced to register as a lobbyist subject to tighter regulations if the measure's requirements had been in place.
``What Proposition R does is create a wall of separation between special interests, lobbyists and elected officials,'' Kaufman said. ``Whether it would have avoided a specific case is not the issue.''
Ethics Commission Vice President Bill Boyarsky criticized the mailers as misleading.
``The Fleishman-Hillard case had nothing to do with that (lobbyist restrictions). That was a pretty simple case of overbilling for work they didn't do.''
He said statements that Proposition R will limit council members to three terms in office ``so that no one can serve for life'' make no mention they already are limited to two terms, or eight years.
Liza White, president of the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, who with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce initiated the ballot measure, said the mailers aren't deceptive.
``It says what it says. It will be a third-term limit,'' White said.
Raphael Sonenshein, a political-science professor at California State University, Fullerton, who signed in support of the proposition, said the mailer language could mislead voters, and that the wording is not ``ideal.''
``I know it seems to create the impression they can serve for life now,'' Sonenshein said. ``It's factually true, (but) it leaves out the information that they're currently limited to two terms.''
He said the references to Fleishman-Hillard didn't seem like a stretch, as it's common in campaign literature to illustrate a wrong and offer something that's ``generally'' on the right track to fix it.
``It says the Fleishman-Hillard (case) demonstrates the need for serious reform in Los Angeles.''
Compared with what's happening elsewhere, the mailers didn't seem ``way out of line.''
``You see ads around the country that are not even technically true,'' he said.
Former Mayor Richard Riordan, who lent his name to the proposition, said he wouldn't second-guess or denounce the mailers, adding that Proposition R is necessary to combat a flawed system in which politicians try to quickly make a name for themselves by introducing ``a lot of destructive and useless legislation.''
Shallman defended the mailers as forthright, adding that polls indicate 90 percent of voters know council members currently are limited to eight years.
``The suggestion this misleads voters does a disservice to the intelligence of voters; we're treating them like grown-ups,'' Shallman said.
Aside from the legal issues, Proposition R opponents said they're disappointed the council would quietly stand by while a campaign to extend their term limits attempts to mislead voters.
``The City Council needs to be held to a higher standard. They should not be allowed to get involved with deceptive election practices,'' said Michael Davies, president of the Board of Governors for the Engineers and Architects Association, a city union representing 7,400 employees.
Jason Lyon, co-chairman of the Not PropR campaign, said during a City Hall new conference announcing filing of the Ethics Commission complaint, ``All of the documentation they're passing out misleads voters into thinking that Prop. R will create term limits. This measure will extend term limits and weaken ethics laws. It's a blatant misrepresentation.''
The campaign also was preparing a complaint to file with the District Attorney's Office's Public Integrity Division.
David Tristan with the Ethics Commission said he couldn't discuss complaints filed with the office. However, the city law doesn't regulate what people print in campaign mailers. The state's Fair Political Practices Commission also doesn't regulate the content of mailers.
Lyon also sent a letter on behalf of Not PropR to the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles.
``We are dismayed that the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles would lead a campaign that seeks to win by lying to voters,'' he said.
The league's White said the group's action committee backs the measure, while its education fund has continued to sponsor nonpartisan panels and other events presenting both sides of the issue.
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SOURCE: Committee to Reform LA
Gregg Miller/Staff Artist
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Oct 24, 2006|
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