Mission Viejo recall election update

On Monday, December 7th we learned that one of the paid solicitors gathering signatures on Mission Viejo petitions for the recall of councilman Lance MacLean contacted city officials with allegations of improper handling of the petition effort.

This unnamed individual lives in our neighboring city of Lake Forest. His allegation was published in the OC Register and posted on another Orange County blog.

Background info.:

On August 24, 2009 a representative of the recall effort turned over to our city clerk petitions with 13,915 signatures of registered voters in our city. While some were rejected for valid reasons the effort surpassed the required number to qualify for a future election ballot.

Fast forward to the past 10 days in which we learn that one of the non Mission Viejo paid workers gathering these signatures has sent a complaint to the city alleging violations of the recall effort.

As a writer for this blog, and whereas I have stated it previously, I again go on record to acknowledge that I was one of the 51 who signed the original documentation to begin the recall process. Beyond that I was not active in the recall effort nor did I participate in obtaining any of the signatures referenced above. Further I was not present when the volunteers and/or paid workers were given instructions on the correct procedures to follow.

A first question for me is an easy one.

Without knowing this individual, or when he was actively engaged in obtaining petition signatures, we do not know the dates of his employment. What we do know is that his communication with the city, virtually 100 days after the petitions were turned in to our  City Clerk Karen Hamman, is suspect. At this point, while I might be able to eventually identify him, I am sure that his lips are currently sealed to any questions I might wish to ask. That’s not to say that I will walk away from investigating this matter rather than winging it as evidenced by Lance supporters in our city. I will try to contact him for an interview of his allegations.
If Mr. X was concerned with violations of the procedure, and there was ample time for a challenge to the recall before the petitions were certified by the ROV, why did he wait over 3 months to complain?

As I avoid the practice of “ready, fire, aim” I have contacted Connie Lee, who led the petition effort, to get her side of the story. We can get a better picture of her response by watching and listening to her comments at the December 7th Mission Viejo council meeting that I will transcribe below.

Sherri Butterfield, a former mayor of our city that we kicked out of office in the 2002 election, who herself was found guilty of a Brown Act violation by a Superior Court judge has weighed in. That case involved the same type of tactics used by Mr. MacLean. Intimidation of a fellow council member. Her commentary on the other County blog reads in part as follows:

“There is now WRITTEN EVIDENCE THAT SEVERAL PEOPLE who were engaged in gathering signatures on the Petition to Recall Mayor Pro Tem Lance MacLean BROKE THE LAW.”

I guess Sherri Butterfield, who has been MIA in our city since getting thrown out of office, apparently has a new job as both a judge and jury.

Sherri. What proof do you have that in fact any law was broken?

This is a perfect example of a political hit. Publishing the word of a fired solicitor without interviewing him directly or getting to hear the other side of the story.

However, this unnamed OC blog editor, who has opposed the MacLean recall from day one, did not even bother to add an editorial comment to Sherri’s remarks that this is purely an accusation at this time.

If an election law was broken can someone show me the headlines and case reference from the ROV, the DA or any court?
My knee jerk is that this is a rush to judgment as the recall is getting closer to becoming a reality.

Here is my best effort to transcribe the Public Comments from Connie Lee at the Dec 7th council meeting. After introducing herself as a long time resident of Mission Viejo Connie makes the following comments which she presents without a written speech or use of a TelePrompTer.

“I do just want to go over some basic law about petitions.

There seems to be some misunderstanding. Umm. There is no need for someone to be a Mission Viejo resident to gather signatures in Mission Viejo. Anybody can solicit..It could be someone from out of town..it could be someone from out of state..they don’t need to live here.  There is no need to have a witness outside the tables. So, that certainly seems to be a misunderstanding.

 All you really need is a voter..who lives in Mission Viejo, who can sign the petition, and, evidence that this is the law, anyone can go on line, download a petition, sign it, witness it, send it in. That’s all you need to do. It’s legitimate.

All you really need is the voter, on a petition form, so I brought my petition form here. There is a place to sign, there is a place at the bottom to witness. It could be the same person.

There is never an excuse not to have a witness because you have a witness right there when the person is signing it.

So I hope this clears up the question about did we need a witness out there. We do not. We need a voter.

But, when we worked with the Mission Viejo recall, we had a higher standard than that. We told anybody from another city we want our crew out there with you.

We demand that we have our witness to make sure that the person signing this is actually the registered voter they say they are.

What we don’t want is someone who is a paid petitioner to take a sheet home with them and go through the phone book and just come up with names and come back and say well here’s my sheet because we would say where’s the witness. And that’s the part that is missing. We were adamant about everybody who worked in the recall. They must sign.. they must have witnesses. At the end of the day, We collected them at the end of the day.

If they didn’t have a witness, we made it very clear to them that petition is not going in.
At the end of the recall we had quite a few sheets of paper that had been signed and not witnessed that we couldn’t turn in.

And rather than saying we’re so virtuous that we wouldn’t consider doing anything like that we’re actually protecting ourselves because there was a recall just recently that did not qualify, and if you are not out there supervising and making sure the people who sign it are who they say they are, than sometimes you don’t get to count those, and when the average goes down to 65% that indeed has happened that they got a lot of signatures.
I did see the e-mail from the person who was saying that something was amiss out there. He did acknowledge in the e-mail he had very specific instruction that he was to work with a witness and he was told EMPHATICALLY that no signature would be accepted by us or turned into the Registrar of Voters unless it was witnessed by one of us.

So, I do hope that answers your question. I will be happy to talk with anyone and I think probably we were infiltrated by the opposition and they found that we ran a tight ship.

So here, 10 months later, somebody, who got fired, because he couldn’t get any signatures and couldn’t follow our rules and was out there in an unauthorized capacity, is now providing the publicity stunt of the week.”

Note: Although I have spent well over two hours transcribing Mrs. Lee’s presentation for this update, my use of punctuation breaks is simply a best effort to follow her comments.

The only emphasis that you find is from her comments where Connie was very strong in her use of the word “emphatically” as it related to the rules for gathering petition signatures.

What next? Although I did not attend Monday’s city council meeting I did watch part of the replay and witnessed mayor Ury asking our city attorney about the allegations. Mr Curley was somewhat guarded and his vague response was that the proper authorities are launching an investigation.

According to the allegations from the fired petitioner he was left alone for periods of time. So what we have is a “he said, she said.” But beyond that was the instruction given to all non Mission Viejo residents that they are not to obtain any voter signatures when a MV resident was not present. Was he alone? If so, knowing the rules why did he continue obtaining signatures if in fact he did during that alleged timeframe?
We also heard Connie say that she has sheets that were not turned in.

Stay tuned. This story may continue for weeks.

About Larry Gilbert