Republican Party of OC Endorsement Committee unanimously reject MV Mayor Trish Kelley

Recalled Councilman Lance MacLean and Trish Kelley

Tuesday evening the Endorsement Committee’s meeting of the California Republican Party Central Committee dedicated hours listening to almost 30 candidates for local offices applying for consideration of this prestigious honor.

It was standing room only in the new GOP HQ in Tustin where members of the Central Committee, applicants and supporters followed the proceedings.

As this is an extensive report let me open with the bottom line for Mission Viejo voters. The endorsement committee unanimously rejected Mission Viejo mayor Trish Kelley’s request for an endorsement. Full details below.

The Nominating committee, Chair Mark Bucher, Craig Alexander, Kristine Alonzo, Deborah Pauly, Bruce Whitaker and Mary Young were very professional and efficient as they listened to each applicant’s presentation and answers to challenges and follow up questions. Absent last night was member Lupe Moreno. These members represent 7 of the 9 O.C. Assembly Districts.

Having attended prior committee meetings I would say this was surely an improvement with each applicant submitting answers to over 30 questions.
To assist the committee, the members had the benefit of research by Liberty First where the voting records and ratings of the incumbents were provided.

Getting a favorable recommendation was no easy task as confirmed by the fact that several candidate decisions were 5-1, 4-2 and split 3-3. Trust me when I report that there were no blank checks issued. Suffice to say that one debated challenge related to the TEA party.

When the third group was called the first candidate seeking the endorsement was Mission Viejo mayor Trish Kelley who like everyone else was given three minutes for opening remarks which is followed by up to three attendees granted one minute each to speak in support of or, opposition to, that candidate.

Sgt. at Arms Jack Anderson apologized to the members for having signed Trish’s application for endorsement consideration based upon just receiving a copy of an Aug 23rd email sent by mayor Trish Kelley clearly pointing out her endorsement of Democrat Dave Leckness.

Being first to speak in opposition to Trish I pointed out that the GOP nominating committee should not lower the bar by endorsing anyone who endorses a Democrat. In addition I notified the panel that with a dozen candidates, Trish endorsed the only Democrat in the list.

When asked to identify myself I mentioned having served as Trish’s campaign manager in 2002 as well as my prior GOTV efforts as a Mission Viejo City captain. I pointed out that you don’t reward someone for 17 non-contested change orders in a massive project cost overrun.

Following myself was current Saddleback Republican Assembly, SRA, president Matt Corrigan who pointed out that Trish never supported the GOTV effort. He mentioned Mrs. Kelley’s support of Dave Leckness in the recall election as well as her recent email with her endorsement. Matt stated that Trish is not a fiscal conservative and that Dave Leckness’s General Election web site lists Trish Kelley and several former mayor endorsements.

The third to speak in opposition was another former SRA president Phil Steinhauer. Phil mentioned Trish voting twice to give herself access to lifetime health care at taxpayer expense.

Gilbert note: Mrs. Kelley only under duress, switched her position after Dave Leckness joined JP Ledesma and Cathy Schlicht to overturn that perk that potentially, for mayor Kelley alone, would have cost Mission Viejo taxpayers around $257,000. If you watch the June meeting video you will see her fighting to block any consideration of the Agenda item.

Another point raised by Mr. Steinhauer on her lack of fiscal decision making was Trish’s approval of spending up to $400,000 for a float in the Rose Parade.

With no one speaking in support of Trish the committee proceeded to ask her some follow up questions.
One issue that mayor Kelley sidestepped was the unusual renewal date of our city manager’s contract. This Feb 1st vote was questioned by a member of the committee. She pointed out that Dennis Wilberg is not one of the higher paid managers in the county and that he did not receive an increase in that extension. I like the expression “acts of omission”  where you do not provide all the relevant facts. She intentionally failed to mention that being concerned with losing his 3 vote majority in the recall election a new Contract was drawn up for the city manager removing some grounds for dismissal that would not entitle him to a major departure gift.

Quoting from the January 30th Mission Viejo Dispatch where it reads:

“Wilberg wants to rewrite his clause on misconduct, which is now defined in his contract as “dishonesty, fraud, self-dealing or willful misconduct.” His attorney wants all of those eliminated, so that misconduct is redefined to include only misappropriations of funds or conviction of a felony (involving “moral turpitude.”) The matter could have significant cost implications to taxpayers, because Wilberg is entitled to nine-months severance pay if released for reasons other than misconduct.”

As to voting herself lifetime health care the board questioned the validity of her reliance on our city attorney’s advise.

What surprised me is when she lied to the committee about her support of Democrat Leckness. Trish said there were only two candidates in the (recall) election and whereas she had issues with one she decided to support Dave Leckness.

The only problem, as pointed out by member Craig Alexander, is that she ignored her own Aug 23rd email endorsement of Dave Leckness in which it closes “I will be sending another email on behalf of Dave Leckness and Rick Sandzimier in a few days.”

Craig started reading from it and offered to give her a copy. Trish responded that she was familiar with it and engaged in an evasive justification for her current support of Registered Democrat Leckness while seeking the GOP endorsement. Trish told the panel that Dave has been a Democrat since he was 18 and is a good colleague or words to that effect.

Mary Young questioned the $400,000 Rose Parade float to which Trish responded it was before the recession. Mary asked if was paid for with taxpayer funds and Trish admitted that to be the case.

Before making their decision on mayor Kelley the committee listened as Mission Viejo candidate Rhonda Reardon presented her professional and personal background.  Rhonda then listed her Republican credentials including walking precincts a few years ago with Central Committee member Robert Ming from the Laguna Niguel city council as well as her role as an elected member of the Saddleback Republican Assembly Board of Directors for several years where she engaged in voter registrations and GOTV.

Speaking in favor of Rhonda were myself and Matt Corrigan. Matt said that “while Rhonda and he did not always agree, she was his integrity barometer. Her yes is always yes and her no is always no. She never waffled.”

The committee did not ask any follow up questions and unanimously voted to recommend Rhonda to the full Central Committee.

Following the vote on Rhonda the committee unanimously voted to reject mayor Kelley’s endorsement request.

The next step in the process is for the Nominating Committee to forward all of their comments and recommendations to the full membership for final consideration at the September 20th meeting.

While the final decision will not occur for a few weeks it would be rare to overturn unanimous Nominating Committee recommendations on any candidate.

It’s amazing that our Mayor thought she could have her cake and eat it by openly working for a Democrat while seeking the Republican Party endorsement.

About Larry Gilbert