The Barbra Williamson Mistake

Debbie Thomas, Paula Cornell and Judy Pepiot have chosen to rescind their endorsement of Barbra Williamson. They are planning to mail a letter to Simi Valley women who previously received their first letter of endorsement. What follows is the text of that letter…

We made a mistake.

We love Simi Valley and in our effort to support qualified women to the city council we asked you to support Barbra Williamson as someone who would bring people together and work collaboratively.

We were wrong and we need your help to fix it.

We’re rescinding our endorsement of Barbra Williamson as a result of a vicious smear campaign she is running that smacks of Washington and Sacramento politics that has no place in Simi Valley.

We know that disagreements are part of politics. We know that different opinions are healthy parts of campaigns. We also know that personal attacks and destruction are ruining our ability to work as a community and we all need to stand up against it when we see it.

Standing up against this type of politics is what we’re doing now and we strongly encourage you to join us. The only way this behavior will stop is if we all take a stand.

We made a mistake. We were wrong. We’re embarrassed to have been fooled. Please help us make it right by rejecting the campaign attacks of Barbra Williamson.

There’s no place for personal attacks in Simi Valley.”

– Debbie Thomas, Paula Cornell and Judy Pepiot

Women Displeased With Barbra Williamson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Women of Simi Valley Disgusted with Barbra Williamson’s Vicious Tactics

Simi Valley, CA (Oct. 30, 2014): Last month, Paula Cornell, Judy Pepiot and Debbie Thomas sent a letter to the women of Simi Valley urging them to vote for Barbra Williamson for the Simi Valley City Council. Today, in light of the disgusting and vicious hit piece Williamson mailed about City Councilman Glen Becerra, the three denounced Williamson’s tactics and urged voters to vote against her.

“Barbra Williamson surprised us all with a hit piece on Glen Becerra today that is reprehensible,” Cornell, Pepiot and Thomas said in a follow-up letter to the women of Simi Valley. “It is politics at its worse. It was meant to do harm to a city councilman who is highly respected in our city. Simi Valley deserves better and it deserves a City Council who can and will work together to continue doing what is best for our community.”

Cornell, Pepiot and Thomas are all involved in numerous volunteer roles that sustain and bolster the quality of life in Simi Valley. Each tackle their volunteer jobs by working with all sectors of government, as well as nonprofit groups, service clubs and the public. Over the years, they have had close encounters with almost everyone involved in Simi Valley’s decision-making processes. They endorsed Williamson because they believed the city needed a woman’s perspective on the City Council.

“We signed the original letter on the understanding that Barbra would run a clean campaign. Now we fear this may not be the last hit piece from her. Shame on Barbra for stooping as low as she did to say nasty untruths about a city councilman” Thomas said.

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Williamson Supporter Slams POA

I read a lot of positive letters to the Editor of the Simi Valley Acorn this morning, along with a few negative ones.  Among the negatives was a letter from a Barbra Williamson supporter with some commentary regarding the Simi Valley POA’s lack of support for her campaign.

So now let me get this straight. Barbra worked to get $100 million for Simi Valley, which included this shooting range for our police department, and yet the Simi Valley Police Officers Association isn’t endorsing her? What’s up with that? Maybe they like all that extra overtime and the comfy desk jobs.

To read the letter in its entire context, click here.

The Simi Valley POA has been very active this election cycle. They’ve endorsed Simi Valley School board candidates (Blough and Daniels) in addition to their endorsements for Council and Mayor. They’ve also made financial contributions to several Council candidates beyond the ones they endorsed.  Their motives appear to be in the best interest of the community, encouraging democracy and providing voters with more choices than just the incumbents. I applaud their efforts.

Elect or Re-Elect? Words Matter.

A couple of years ago, Barbra Williamson was quoted in the paper as saying the following after she filed a complaint about Keith Mashburn regarding his ballot designation of “retired fire chief.”

“You’ve got to play on a level playing field,” she said. “Everybody has to play by the rules. I know there are people upset with me—so be it. I’ve never been one to shy away from a problem.”

Right now, Barbra Williamson is asking people to “re-elect” her as a member of the Simi Valley City Council. She’s doing so with the “Re-elect Barbra Williamson” materials that she passes out at events like the Simi Valley Street Fair, on her campaign website and while walking precincts to talk to voters. The problem with that is that she is not a sitting councilmember. Per California law, only an incumbent can use the word “re-elect” to describe their actual re-election effort. Doing so otherwise is a violation of California Elections Code section 18350.

“I have no ill will toward Keith Mashburn; I’ve known him for years and years and years,” she said. “I think he’s a good person. I think when he put down ‘retired fire chief’ that he knew it was slippery slope and that he even had reservations about it.” – Barbra Williamson, 2012

Likewise, I’m sure Barbra knew it was a slippery slope to use the word “re-elect” and fully appreciates this coming to light so she can address it appropriately. Right? Right. Of course, failure to comply and update the campaign and associated materials is more than just a violation of California Election Code, but it also serves to mislead voters. This campaign will be a critical one for Barbra because it’s her attempt to earn back her seat on the City Council after her two year hiatus. But as the 2012 robocall indicates, misleading voters is ineffective. To assist in this process, I have informed the Ventura County DA, the Simi Valley City Manager’s office, and the Secretary of State Elections Office, among others, all of whom can provide oversight to ensure that voters have a fair chance of knowing who the candidates really are.

In the 2012 election for City Council, Barbra Williamson was defeated by Keith Mashburn, who received 16,800+ votes to her 14,800+ votes, with Steve Sojka taking the top number of votes and being re-elected. Back in 2008, Steve Sojka was easily re-elected as the top vote-getter, with Barbra being re-elected with 22,900+ votes to challenger Mike Judge’s 13,500+ showing at the polls. If history tells us anything, it’s that Barbra has no hope of defeating Glen Becerra’s anticipated numbers this election and that she’s hoping to oust Mike Judge, repeating her success in 2008. His showing as a new candidate in 2008 was impressive, but this time he’s returning with a lot of new support and as an incumbent, which, despite arguments to the contrary, matters to the Simi Valley electorate. She will need to campaign hard this time around, and with more than just a “re-elect” word-play trick up her sleeve. This city is full of surprises, so we’ll see what happens in November. More to come later on the Barbra Williamson campaign…

DISCLOSURE: I was once a very enthusiastic supporter of Barbra Williamson but did not support her re-election in 2012.

Full Audio – December 4 Tapo Street Grant Meeting

Today, I received a lawsuit threat from Ted Mackel for posting the article referencing the timeline of events related to the Tapo Street renovation grant dispute. Check back later for the screen capture of the lawsuit threat letter that was delivered via Facebook. This is important to note because it explains why the article was edited shortly after it was published.

For clarification and full disclosure, I’m providing a full, unedited segment of audio. The video embedded below is the full audio of the meeting that took place at City Hall on December 4, 2012, between city officials and a group of citizens. It is over an hour long, but I encourage you to listen to it in full so that you can draw your own conclusions.

For your own copy of the audio CD of the meeting, write to City Clerk, City of Simi Valley, 2929 Tapo Canyon Road, Simi Valley, CA 93063, and request a CD of the meeting between Doug Crosse and the City Manager held on December 4, 2012, pursuant to the California Public Record Act. Give the City at least 10 days to respond.

(Mitch Green has provided a cliff notes summary of the meeting dialogue which can be found here.)

Redevelopment Grant Timeline of Events

The events of the Tapo Street redevelopment grant issue that have played out during the course of the last election and finally concluded with the business owner returning the grant funds involve a series of letters, information requests and other maneuvers. Mitchell Green, former 2010 City Council Candidate, published a detailed account of how things went and when. He allowed me to republish his post here:

For a time line refresher, Kelly Kolarek’s letter to the editor of July 27, 2012,

http://www.simivalleyacorn.com/news/2012-07-27/Letters/Candidates_not_fit_for_council_seats.html

Doug Crosse announces his suspension of his City Council campaign on August 10, 2012, citing Mr. Kolarek’s “attack letter,”

http://www.simivalleyacorn.com/news/2012-08-10/Letters/Behavior_is_an_election_question.html

September 5, 2012, Doug Crosse files his government claim against Steve Sojka for “cell phone reimbursement misuse” and also files his first public record act request with the City requesting documentation of only the K & J Auto Facade Renovation Grant information.

October 1, 2012, Doug Crosse makes his second Public Record Act request, this time authorizing Scott Santino, Bob Huber’s 2010 campaign manager to pick up the documents from the City.

October 4, 2012, the City prematurely denies Doug Crosse’s government claim regarding Council Member Sojka’s cell phone reimbursement, after sending the small claims matter out to a private firm for an unnecessary opinion costing the City $2,622 in the process at $285 per hour legal billing rate. Which makes no sense when under the Government Code the City needed to do nothing and the claim would have been denied by operation of law with no expense to the City and no conflict of interest to the City Attorney, but the, Doug and friends might not have had enough clown time if the matter had run its proper course. This is a key point of perhaps improper government collusion and, in my opinion, a key weakness as any discussion, communication, e-mail or other correspondence regarding any of this by the City Attorney to anyone but the internal City Attorney’s Office, outside retained counsel for the specific matter, or to the entire City Council in closed session is NOT protected by attorney-client privilege and IS subject to disclosure through the Public Record Act. Unless, of course, a personnel action were to result. Or worse. And guess what folks, you can’t delete e-mails from the City’s hard drive, you can only remove it from visibility. But its still there . . .

October 10, 2012, Doug Crosse files his Grand Jury Complaint with the Ventura County Grand Jury.

October 17, 2012, Doug Crosse holds his TEA Party meeting where he openly brags about the City Attorney calling him to discuss his and the TEA Party’s claim against the City, and he jokes with her about speeding up the denial so he can get on with his lawsuit against the City. Which, remarkably, is just what happened. (Remember, I never would have done this in the 8 years I supervised the civil defense for the City – this is just unheard of). Council Member Mike Judge also attended this meeting.

Also on October 17, 2012, Doug Crosse acknowledges his co-conspirators in his Grand Jury Complaint stunt, as follows,

“Guys like Scott Santino and Ted Mackel don’t get involved in these type of things, my good friend Louis, uh, Pandolfi over there, don’t get involved in things like this except for one reason and that is, we want to hold our government accountable.” Doug Crosse, October 17, 2012

[Editor: speculative remarks removed]

Also on October 17, 2012, Louis Pandolfi posts on Facebook the following “poll”:

“1. Did you vote, or would you support, condominiums in the hills at the gateway to our community, at the Happy Face location?
2. Are you in favor of disbanding “our Police Department, firing our police officers and contracting with the County.”

Then, on October 22, the Robo Calls happen with the following script (notice the quotes and then check again Louis Pandolfi’s “poll” above):

“Dear Neighbor, I’m really concerned about crime in Simi Valley. Did you know that Steve Sojka running for City Council may want to shut down “our police department, fire our police officers, and contract with the county?” Imagine wanting to shut down our fine police department? This is the same Steve Sojka who gave $70,000 of our tax money to a friend and campaign supporter to remodel his used car lot, a matter now before the grand jury. Sojka voted for condominiums in our hills at Happy Face. Sojka talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. Its time to get rid of Sojka before he really hurts our community. Thank you. This message is paid for by Justice Political Action Committee.”

Notice the near exact wording between that Louis Pandolfi uses on October 17, 2012 in point 2 and the Robo Call Script? The 12 Magic Words Gate? Perhaps just a coincidence. Also, there is no Justice Political Action Committee, which makes this Robo Call illegal on its face. And, as there is only one used car lot in Simi Valley, with the implication that because it is “now before the grand jury” that it “really hurts our community” the tie in also makes it actionably defamatory and qualifying for punitive damages in its very face. That is, if the identity of the Robo Caller participants is firmly determined to the satisfaction of a court of law.

October 24, 2012, Barbra Williamson and Mike Judge hold a press conference calling on the City to investigate the grant authorized by Steve Sojka and Glen Becerra.

October 29, 2012, Doug Crosse waives his broom in City Council chambers, giving proper witch hunt imagery to his political stunt.

November 1, 2012, the Ventura County Grand Jury announces that it is declining to investigate the complaint prepared and filed by Doug Crosse and endorsed by the Simi Valley Moorpark TEA Party. Grand Jury foreman Jay Whitney later spoke with the Ventura County Star, where he “characterized the letter as essentially a form letter, saying it should not be interpreted as meaning that the jury made any findings as to possible criminal violations with the grant.”

November 19, 2012, City Council on motion by Barbra Williamson, directs City Staff to meet with Doug Crosse to discuss his concerns regarding the K & J grant. On November 20, 2012, Doug Crosse in an interview with the Star, states that he hopes the meeting will be open to the public. “ “I will cooperate in any way I’m able to,” he said. “I’m glad that at least it’s moving in some direction.” He added that he would like his meeting with city staff members to be open to the public.”

On December 3, 2012, Assistant City Manager Brian Gabler informs Mr. Kolarek’s representative that they are not welcome at the meeting as it is “not open to the public.”

On December 4, 2012, Doug Crosse, Ted Mackel, Tom Mackel, Louis Pandolfi, and Barbra Williamson met with City Manager Laura Behjan and Assistant City Manager Brian Gabler, and instead of discussing the City’s procedures as was the basis of the motion passed by the City Council, a member of the group instead implies Mr. Kolarek committed fraud while others demanded additional documentation not authorized by the Participation Agreement, which demands were promptly adopted by City manager Behjan. Note: this paragraph was edited to emphasize that not all members of the group accused Mr. Kolarek of fraud after I received a threat of lawsuit. The individual heard prominently suggesting fraud was Louis Pandolfi. The audio of the meeting and the lawsuit threat will be posted later today for full disclosure and clarification.

On December 6, 2012, Assistant City Manager Brian Gabler writes to Mr. Kolarek and on behalf of the City, adopts the demand of the TEA Party group, demanding the documents from Mr.Kolarek that the TEA Party group demanded from the City on December 4. Mr. Kolarek, through representatives, declines to participate.

On December 17, 2012, Jared Held, TEA Party Vice President, posts on Facebook copies of K & J Auto business checks with bank name, address and account numbers unredacted. The City later confirms that it erroneously released copies of the checks to Doug Crosse in violation of its own policies.

On December 19, 2012, Mr. Kolarek chooses to return the grant money.

And yet, the TEA Party continues its attacks.

This concludes Mr. Green’s remarks and I appreciate his permission to repost this content.

Simi Valley Political Sign Drama

Sometimes, not sharing the details does more to stir the rumor mill than simply naming names and telling the truth. Take the latest in Simi Valley political sign gossip:

BTW, I have heard from multiple people that a certain Council person is harassing citizens who have signs from other candidates and in some cases getting people to take the other signs down.

After Ken Sandberg, candidate for Simi Valley Mayor made that remark, I began speculating and asking around, privately and in public forms, who he was talking about and learned that the latest rumor was that Council Member Barbra Williamson had “harassed” a property owner into removing a Keith Mashburn for City Council sign. No one seemed to be able to confirm it, including those involved. I asked Keith Mashburn for comment and he kindly replied:

Hi Mike.  In the interest of my camp remaining positive, I decline to comment.

I respect Keith’s decision to keep things positive. Unfortunately, however, his choice to stay quiet in the interest of running a positive campaign only made me more suspicious that the rumor might be true. I learned that the property owner was on Stearns Street and received their contact information and decided to call them directly.

It turns out the property owner’s adult son granted permission for the Mashburn sign to be posted and the sign was placed while the owner was out of town. Upon return, the owner, a long-time Williamson supporter, decided he preferred not to have the sign there and respectfully requested that it be removed. The property owner indicated that the Mashburn team was very courteous, removed the sign and apologized for the misunderstanding. When asked if Williamson played a role in removing the sign, he seemed surprised by the question and said, “No, not at all!” He reiterated that he was not harassed or coerced, that his son was also a good man who is a Mashburn supporter, and that both Mashburn and Williamson are good, respectful people. The sign was removed for no other reason than the property owner simply didn’t want it there.

Sign-gate 2012? No, not at all. The lesson learned: apparently, not everything you read on Facebook about the political scene is true. Imagine that!